Salome: A Tragedy In One Act PDF By Oscar Wilde

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Salome: A Tragedy in One Act

When “Salomé” was translated into English by Lord Alfred Douglas, the illustrator, Aubrey Beardsley, shared some of the obloquy heaped on Wilde.

It is interesting that he should have found inspiration for his finest work in a play he never admired and by a writer he cordially disliked.

The motives are, of course, made to his hand, and never was there a more suitable material for that odd tangent art in which there are no tactile values.

The amusing caricatures of Wilde which appear in the Frontispiece, “Enter Herodias” and “The Eyes of Herod,” are the only pieces of vraisemblance in these exquisite designs.

The colophon is a real masterpiece and a witty criticism of the play as well.

On the production of “Salomé” by the New Stage Club in May 1905, the dramatic critics again expressed themselves vehemently, vociferating their regrets that the play had been dragged from its obscurity.

The obscure drama, however, had become for five years part of the literature of Europe.

It is performed regularly or intermittently in Holland, Sweden, Italy, France, and Russia, and it has been translated into every European language, including Czech.

It forms part of the repertoire of the German stage, where it is performed more often than any play by any English writer except Shakespeare.

Owing, perhaps, to what I must call its obscure popularity in the continental theatres, Dr. Strauss was preparing his remarkable opera at the very moment when there appeared the criticisms to which I refer, and since the production of the opera in Dresden in December 1905.

English musical journalists and correspondents always refer to the work as found in Wilde’s drama.

That is the only way in which they can evade an awkward truth—a palpable contravention of their own wishes and theories.

The music, however, has been set to the actual words of “Salomé” in Madame Hedwig Lachmann’s admirable translation.

The words have not been transfigured into ordinary operatic nonsense to suit the score or the susceptibilities of the English people.

I observe that admirers of Dr. Strauss are a little mortified that the great master should have found an occasion for composition in a play that they long ago consigned to oblivion and the shambles of Aubrey Beardsley.

Wilde himself, in a rhetorical period, seems to have contemplated the possibility of his prose drama for a musical theme.

In “De Profundis” he says: “The refrains, whose recurring motifs make ‘Salomé’ so like a piece of music, and bind it together as a ballad.”

He was still incarcerated in 1896 when Mons. Ligne Poë produced the play for the first time at the Théâtre Libre in Paris, with Lina Muntz in the title role.

A rather pathetic reference to this occasion occurs in a letter Wilde wrote to me from Reading:—

“Please say how gratified I was at the performance of my play, and have my thanks conveyed to Luigne Poë. It is something that at a time of disgrace and shame I should still be regarded as an artist.

I wish I could feel more pleasure, but I seem dead to all emotions except those of anguish and despair. However, please let Luigne Poë know that I am sensible of the honor he has done me.

He is a poet himself. Write to me in answer to this, and try and see what Lemaitre, Bauer, and Sarcey said of ‘Salomé.'”

The bias of personal friendship precludes me from praising or defending “Salomé,” even if it were necessary to do so.

Nothing I might say would add to the reputation of its detractors. Its sources are obvious; particularly Flaubert and Maeterlinck, in whose peculiar and original style it is an essay.

A critic, for whom I have greater regard than many of his contemporaries, says that “Salomé” is only a catalog.

But a catalog can be intensely dramatic, as we know when the performance takes place at Christie’s; few plays are more exciting than an auction in King Street when the stars are fighting for Sisera.

AuthorOscar Wilde
Language English
No. of Pages128
PDF Size6 MB

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