What the main idea of Wilde's play Salome?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main concern in Oscar Wilde's play Salome is the question of sexual desire and the relevance of social morality and moral law. This idea is undergirded by the other important idea in Salome, that of religious belief. Wilde explores the idea of sexual desire and social moral law through six examples of love relationships, only one of them exemplary but all of them punished by, because of, or through social moral law.

The first is the religious love of the prophet Jokanaan for the subjects for whom his prophecies are intended. He is punished for this love by imprisonment and beheading. Herod's and Herodias's love and marriage are denounced by Jokanaan and Herod turns blame on Herodias. Herod's love for Salome is criticized and eventually ends with him issuing the proclamation of her death. The Syrian's love for Salome, which might have properly led to a marriage, ends with him ending his life in shame for what his love for her drove him to do--and what it caused him to have to witness. Salome's love for Jokanaan is violent and grotesque and ends in her death sentence. The Page's love for the Syrian is least developed but seems to be the only sincere and genuine love of one person for another with no villainy or manipulation. It ends in sorrow due to the Syrian's self-inflicted death.

It may also be said that the religious discussions of the Nubian and Cappodocian represent another love relationship, one in which one party (the Nubians) is abused and the other in which one party (the Cappodocians) is abandoned. By this reading, the Jewish religious leaders arguing fruitlessly and endlessly about seemingly irrelevant details would represent the Victorian setters of hyper-religious moral law.

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Salome

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