Salomé

by: Oscar Wilde

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

THE SYRIAN: How beautiful is the Princess Salomé tonight!

THE PAGE: Look at the moon! How strange the moon seems! She is like a woman rising from the tomb. She is like a dead woman. You would fancy she was looking for dead things.

THE SYRIAN: She has a strange look. She is like a little princess who wears a yellow veil, and whose feet are of silver. You would fancy she was dancing.

THE PAGE: She is like a woman who is dead. She moves very slowly.

This dialogue opens Salomé. The play begins with two voyeurs, opening with a scene of looking that establishes, in some sense, the perils of the look. The Syrian marvels at the beautiful princess and the Page, mesmerized by the moon. Note the Page's first line, an injunction to look: "Look at the moon!" Salomé weaves an extensive network of metaphors around whiteness that links the moon, the princess, and the prophet. Here Salomé and the moon appear as consummate—and consuming—objects of the look. Indeed, Salomé already appears in the spectacle that immortalizes her: she wears a yellow veil, and one would "fancy" that she was already dancing. Though both the Syrian and Page first appear lost in their own reveries, their respective monologues soon interweave around the pronoun "she." The moon becomes a metaphor for the princess: she is a dead woman rising from a tomb, slowly moving and dancing a dance of death. Thus the Page repeatedly warns the Syrian against looking at the princess too much. Looking, and specifically looking for sexual purposes, is forbidden. If the Syrian looks, undoubtedly something terrible will happen. Importantly, not only does the male look at the female, but the female also looks back. As the Syrian muses, the princess has a "strange look"; the Page senses the significance of this female look more clearly: "You would fancy she was looking for dead things." This phrase of course parallels the Syrian's own fancy: "You would fancy she was dancing." Again, Salomé's dance is the dance of death, and, in dancing, she looks for dead things. Thus Salomé bears death both in her look and her role as the object looked at by the male gaze.