Salomé

by: Oscar Wilde

Herod

Characters Herod

The Tetrarch of Judea, Herod is Herodias's second husband and Salomé's stepfather. He has deposed, imprisoned, and executed Salomé's father—his own elder brother and the former king—and wedded Herodias in what Jokanaan calls an incestuous union. Loyal to Caesar and assured of the favor of the Roman Empire, he has every cause to celebrate but finds that his desire distracts him. As the Soldiers note, he wears a "somber look," fascinated by Salomé's beauty. He attempts to seduce her lecherously, but to little avail. Herod is in fear of Jokanaan, whom he has imprisoned, as he cannot know if Jokanaan actually speaks the word of God and if his many prophecies of ruin will come to pass. He is also tormented by a host of omens—the blood in which he slips, the beating wings of the angel of death, his burning and bloody garland—that foretell the death about to strike the palace. He turns to Salomé desperately to lift his spirits, his lust leading him into his fatal pact. Herod then Guiltily cringes from what he imagines to be his punishment for looking at Salomé too much. He will call for the smothering of the torches in disgust and withdraw into darkness. As he bitterly swears: "I will not look at things, I will not suffer things to look at me."