SALOME

A Gothic Fantasy

Translated and Adapted from Oscar Wilde's French Play

by

Michael Woodhead

 

 

CHARACTERS

 

HEROD ANTIPAS, Tetrarch of Judaea

JOKANAAN, the prophet

NARRABOTH, a young Syrian captain

TIGELLINUS, a young Roman

MELIK, a Cappadocean

GACHERO, a Nubian

1st SOLDIER

2nd SOLDIER

SAMARA, the Page of Herodias

NAAMAN, the executioner

HERODIAS, wife of Herod

SALOME, daughter of Herodias

A SLAVE

Various Jews, Nazarenes, Slaves, etc.

 

 

[The curtain rises on a large terrace which overlooks a banquet hall in the palace of Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Judaea. Several soldiers and merchants are gathered on the balcony, some of them leaning on the railing]

 

[Stage Left is a large staircase leading to the balcony]

 

[Upstage Right, an ancient well is covered by a wooden lid and surrounded by a wall of green bronze.

 

[Bright light shines from an unnaturally large moon behind the terrace]

 

[NARRABOTH, a young Syrian captain of the guards, stands at the top of the staircase, and gazes at the banquet area]

 

[Downstage Right, sitting on a bench, and staring at the soldiers, is SAMARA, the page of Herodias. S/he is quite hermaphroditic in appearance]

 

NARRABOTH: Princess Salome is so very beautiful tonight!

 

SAMARA: Look at the moon! The moon looks strange--like a woman leaving a tomb. A dead woman. Looking for dead souls.

 

NARRABOTH: She looks so strange--like a little princess wearing a yellow veil, and with feet of silver. Yes! She looks like a princess who has feet like little white doves. It's been said that she's a dancer.

 

SAMARA: She's like a dead woman, moving very slowly.

 

[A brief noise erupts from the banquet hall]

 

1st SOLDIER: What a racket! Who are they that howl like wild beasts?

 

2nd SOLDIER: The Jews. They're always like that when they're discussing their religion.

 

1st SOLDIER: Why's that?

 

2nd SOLDIER: I don't know. Like I said, they're always doing it. For example, the Pharisees claim that angels exist, and the Sadducees argue that they don't.

 

1st SOLDIER: It's ridiculous to argue about things like that!

 

NARRABOTH: Princess Salome is so very beautiful tonight.

 

SAMARA: You're always looking at her. You're looking at her too much. It's not right to stare at people like that...it can bring bad luck.

 

NARRABOTH: She's so beautiful tonight.

 

1st SOLDIER: The Tetrarch looks a little gloomy.

 

2nd SOLDIER: Yes, a bit melancholy.

 

1st SOLDIER: He's looking at something.

 

2nd SOLDIER: He's looking at someone.

 

1st SOLDIER: Oh? Who?

 

2nd SOLDIER: I can't tell.

 

NARRABOTH: The princess looks so pale. I've never seen her so pale before. Like a white rose reflected in a silver mirror.

 

SAMARA: Stop looking at her! You're looking at her too much.

 

1st SOLDIER: Herodias has poured a drink for the Tetrarch.

 

[MELIK, a Cappadocean, comes to look over the railing]

 

MELIK: Is that queen Herodias? With the black, pearl-covered miter and her hair powdered in blue?

 

1st SOLDIER: Yes, Herodias, the Tetrarch's wife.

 

2nd SOLDIER: The Tetrarch loves his wine. He possesses three kinds of wine--one, from the isle of Samothrace, is purple like Caesar's robe.

 

MELIK: I've never seen Caesar.

 

2nd SOLDIER: Another, which comes from a village on Cypress, is as yellow as gold.

 

MELIK: Hah! I love gold!

 

2nd SOLDIER: And the third is a Sicilian wine that's as red as blood.

 

GACHERO: The god of my country loves blood. In fact, twice a year we sacrifice young men and virgins: fifty young men, and a hundred virgins. But, it doesn't seem to appease the god since misfortune always comes upon us.

 

MELIK: We don't have any gods to appease in my country--the Romans drove them out. It's said they'd taken refuge in the surrounding mountains, but I've never found them. I even tried to call them by name, but they never appeared. I think they're dead.

 

1st SOLDIER: The Jews love a God they can't see.

 

MELIK: What do you mean?

 

1st SOLDIER: That's to say, they only seem to believe in things everyone else can't see.

 

MELIK: That's ridiculous!

 

JOKANAAN [From the well]: After me comes one more powerful than I. I'm not even worthy enough to untie the laces of his sandals. When he comes, the very desert will blossom. It will flourish with lilies. The eyes of the blind will see the daylight, and the ears of the deaf shall hear...The newborn child will stick his hand in a nest of dragons, and will lead lions by their manes.

 

2nd SOLDIER: Tell him to be quiet! He's always saying stupid things.

 

1st SOLDIER: No, no! The man's a saint! He's also very gentle. Every day, when I give him something to eat, he always graciously thanks me.

 

MELIK: Who is he?

 

1st SOLDIER: A prophet.

 

MELIK: And his name?

 

1st SOLDIER: Jokanaan.

 

MELIK: Where'd he come from?

 

1st SOLDIER: The desert, where he survived on locusts and wild honey. He dressed in camel hair skin, and a leather girdle. He looked very wild! Crowds of people used to follow him, and he even had several disciples.

 

MELIK: What did he talk about?

 

1st SOLDIER: I don't know, really. Sometimes he spoke of terrifying things, but I always found it impossible to understand him.

 

MELIK: Can I see him?

 

1st SOLDIER: No! The Tetrarch won't allow it.

 

NARRABOTH: ...The princess hides her face behind a fan. Her little white hands flutter like doves flying away from their nests. They look like white butterflies. They're fluttering about like white butterflies.

 

SAMARA: What are you doing? Why are you staring at her? It's not right to look at her like that...something tragic will happen!

 

MELIK [Pointing at the well]: What a strange prison!

 

2nd SOLDIER: It's an old well.

 

MELIK: An old well? But it must be unhealthy in there!

 

2nd SOLDIER: Not at all! Indeed, the Tetrarch's eldest brother, queen Herodias's first husband, was locked away in it for twelve years. He didn't die. In the end, it was necessary to strangle him.

 

MELIK: Strangled? By whom?

 

2nd SOLDIER [Points to the executioner, a large black man]: That one, over there. Naaman.

 

MELIK: Wasn't he afraid?

 

2nd SOLDIER: Not in the least. The Tetrarch sent him the Ring.

 

MELIK: What ring?

 

2nd SOLDIER: The Ring of Death. So, naturally, he wasn't afraid.

 

MELIK: Nevertheless, it's horrible to strangle a king.

 

1st SOLDIER: Why? The king has a neck, just like everyone else!

 

MELIK: It still seems terrible to me.

 

NARRABOTH: The princess is getting up! She's leaving the table. She looks annoyed. Ah! She's coming here! Yes! She's coming towards us. She's so pale. Never have I seen her so pale.

 

SAMARA: Don't look at her! I beg you not to look at her!

 

NARRABOTH: She's like a wandering dove...she's like a narcissus flower wafting in the wind...she looks like a silver flower...

 

[SALOME enters]

 

SALOME: I can't stay there! I can't stand the smell. And why does the Tetrarch stare at me with his moleskin eyes beneath those flickering eyelids? It's weird how my mother's husband looks at me like that. I don't know what to think....Indeed, I do understand.

 

NARRABOTH: You've left the feast, princess?

 

SALOME [ignores him, breathes deeply]: Ah! The air's so fresh out here. I can breathe! Inside are Jews from Jerusalem who're tearing each other apart because of their ridiculous ceremonies; and barbarians who always drink and throw their wine on the floor tiles; and Greeks from Smyrna with their painted eyes and painted cheeks and spiraled, curly hair; and the Egyptians--quiet and subtle, with their sharp jade-coloured nails and brown cloaks; and some Romans with their brutality, their clumsiness, their abusiveness...Oh! How I hate the Romans. They're just common people, but think they're great leaders.

 

NARRABOTH: Don't you want to sit, princess?

 

SAMARA: Why are you talking to her? Why are you looking at her?...Oh! tragedy is going to come of this.

 

SALOME: I love to look at the moon! She reminds me of a small coin, perhaps even of a blooming, silver flower. She's cold and pure, the moon...I'm certain she's a virgin. She certainly possesses a virgin beauty...Yes, she is a virgin. She's never been soiled. She's never been given to men like the other Goddesses.

 

JOKANAAN [in the well]: The Lord is coming! The Son of Man is coming! The centaurs hide themselves in the rivers, and the sirens leave the rivers to hide beneath the leaves of the forest.

 

SALOME: Who's shouting like that?

 

2nd SOLDIER: It's the prophet, princess.

 

SALOME: Oh, yes, the prophet. The one the Tetrarch fears?

 

2nd SOLDIER: We don't know anything about that, princess. But, it's the prophet, Jokanaan.

 

NARRABOTH: May I order your litter to come, princess? The garden's very beautiful--

 

SALOME: He says monstrous things about my mother, doesn't he?

 

2nd SOLDIER: We never really understand anything he says, princess.

 

SALOME: Oh, yes, he's said some terrible things about her.

 

[A SLAVE enters from the banquet area]

 

SLAVE: Princess, the Tetrarch begs you to return to the feast.

 

SALOME: I will not.

 

NARRABOTH: Pardon me, princess, but if you don't return, something terrible could happen.

 

SALOME [to the 1st Soldier]: Is the prophet an old man?

 

NARRABOTH: Princess, it would be best for you to return. Allow me to escort you--

 

SALOME: Is the prophet an old man?

 

1st SOLDIER: No, princess. He's very much a young man.

 

2nd SOLDIER: Of course, we can't really be sure. Some says he's Elias.

 

SALOME: Who is Elias?

 

2nd SOLDIER: A very old prophet from this country, princess.

 

SLAVE: What reason shall I give the Tetrarch to explain why the princess left?

 

JOKANAAN [from the well]: Don't rejoice, land of Palestine, because the rod of him that struck you has been broken. For from the blood of the serpent will come the basilisk, and that which is born of it will devour the birds.

 

SALOME: What a strange voice. I would like to talk to him.

 

1st SOLDIER: I'm afraid that's impossible, princess. The Tetrarch won't allow anyone to talk to him. Even the high priest cannot talk to him.

 

SALOME: I want to talk to him.

 

1st SOLDIER: It's impossible, princess.

 

SALOME: I want to.

 

NARRABOTH: Indeed, princess, it would be better to return to the feast.

 

SALOME: Release the prophet.

 

1st SOLDIER: We don't dare, princess!

 

[Salome approaches the well, and looks at it closely]

 

SALOME: It looks so dark in there! He must have done something very terrible to be in a hole so black. It looks like a tomb...[to Soldiers] Didn't you hear me? Let him out! I want to see him.

 

2nd SOLDIER: I beg of you, princess, don't ask us to do that!

 

SALOME: I'm waiting...

 

1st SOLDIER: Princess, truly our lives are in your hands, but we just can't do that which you ask of us...But then, truthfully, we are not the ones of whom you should ask this thing.

 

SALOME [sees Narraboth]: Ah!

 

SAMARA: Oh! What has happened? I'm sure something terrible is going to come.

 

SALOME: You would do this for me, wouldn't you, Narraboth? You would do this for me? I've always been nice to you. Wouldn't you do this for me? I only want to look at this strange prophet. People have said so much about him. I've often heard the Tetrarch going on about him, too. I'm sure he's afraid of him...Are you also, Narraboth? Do you fear him, too?

 

NARRABOTH: I don't fear him, princess. I fear no one. But the Tetrarch has formally forbidden anyone to raise the lid from the well.

 

SALOME: Do this for me, Narraboth, and tomorrow, when I pass in my litter under the idol-sellers' gate , I will toss you a little flower, a small green fresh flower, just for you.

 

NARRABOTH: Princess, I can't, I cant!

 

[Narraboth turns away from her]

 

SALOME [smiling]: You will do this for me, Narraboth. You know very well that you'll do it for me. And tomorrow, when I pass in my litter over the bridge of the idol-buyers, I will gaze upon you through the muslin veils. I will look at you, Narraboth, and perhaps I shall even smile at you. Look at me, Narraboth. Look at me.

 

[He does so]

 

SALOME: Ah! Well do you know you're going to do what I ask. You know that for sure, don't you?...I know it!

 

NARRABOTH [making a sign to the 3rd Soldier]: Let the prophet out!...Princess Salome wishes to see him.

 

SALOME [claps her hands with glee]: Ah!

 

[Clouds begin to sweep across the moon]

 

SAMARA: Oh! The moon looks so strange--as if the hand of a corpse covers her with a shroud.

 

[The 3rd Soldier unlocks and throws open the lid on the well]

 

NARRABOTH: She looks strange--like a little princess with amber eyes; through clouds of muslin, she smiles like a little princess.

 

[JOKANAAN, the prophet, climbs out of the well. Salome looks at him and recoils]

 

JOKANAAN: Where is the one whose cup of abomination overflows? Where is the one who wears a silver robe and shall die one day before all the people? Tell him to come forward so he can hear the voice of one who cries in the deserts and in the palaces of kings.

 

SALOME: Of whom does he speak?

 

NARRABOTH: No one knows, princess.

 

JOKANAAN: Where is the one who saw the paintings of men on the battlements, even images of the Chaldeans drawn with colours, and who let herself be carried away by the lust of her eyes, and sent ambassadors into Chaldea?

 

SALOME: He's talking about my Mother!

 

NARRABOTH: Not so, princess...

 

SALOME: Yes. It's about my Mother.

 

JOKANAAN: Where is she who abandonned herself to the captains of the Assyrians, who have ornamental belts around their loins, and different coloured tiaras on their heads? Where is she who has abandonned herself to the young men of Egypt who dress in linen and hyacinth, who wear gold buckles and silver helmets, and who have large bodies? Tell her to leave her bed of lewdness in order to hear the words of he who prepares the way of the Lord, so that she will repent of her sins. Though she will never repent, and remains in her abominations, tell her to come, for the Lord has a scourge in his hand.

 

SALOME: He's terrible, he's terrible!

 

NARRABOTH: Don't stay here, princess, I beg of you.

 

SALOME: Above all, it's his eyes which are terrible--like black holes lit by torches as on a tapestry of Tyr; like black caverns where dragons dwell, the black caverns of Egypt where dragons find their shelter; like black lakes troubled by fantastic moons...Do you think he will speak again?

 

NARRABOTH: Don't stay here, princess. I beg of you not to stay.

 

SALOME: He's so scrawny, too! Like a slendour, ivory statue; a silver statue, perhaps. Much like the moon, I'm sure he is pure. Like a silver beam of light. His skin must be very cold, like ivory...I want to see him up close.

 

NARRABOTH: No! No, princess!

 

SALOME: I need to see him up close.

 

NARRABOTH: Princess! Princess!

 

JOKANAAN: Who is this woman who looks at me? I don't want her to look at me. Why does she stare at me with golden eyes beneath gilded eyelids? I don't know who she is. I don't want to know her. Tell her to go away. I don't wish to speak with her.

 

SALOME: I am Salome, daughter of Herodias, Princess of Judea.

 

JOKANAAN: Get back! Daughter of Babylon! Do not approach the chosen of the Lord. Your mother has filled the earth with the wine of her iniquities, and the cries of her sins have fallen on the ears of God.

 

SALOME: Speak again, Jokanaan. Your voice intoxicates me!

 

NARRABOTH: Princess! Princess! Princess!

 

SALOME: Speak again. Speak again, Jokanaan, and tell me what to do.

 

JOKANAAN: Get away from me, daughter of Sodom, and cover your face with your veil, cover your head with ashes, and then go into the desert and seek the son of Man.

 

SALOME: Who is the son of Man? Is he as handsome as you, Jokanaan?

 

JOKANAAN: Get away! Get away from me! In the palace, I hear the beating of the wings of the angel of death.

 

NARRABOTH: Princess, I beg of you to go back in!

 

JOKANAAN: Angel of the Lord God, what are you doing here with your sword? Whom do you seek in this unclean palace?...The day that he is to die in a silver cloak has not come.

 

SALOME: Jokanaan.

 

JOKANAAN: Who speaks?

 

SALOME: Jokanaan! Your body intoxicates me. Your body is white like the meadow lily that the reaper has not reaped. Your body is as white as the snow that rests on the mountains, like the snow that rests on the mountains of Judea, and descends into the valley. The roses in the garden of the queen of Arabia aren't as white as your body. Neither the roses of the queen of Arabia, nor the feet of daybreak that dance upon the leaves, nor the breast of the moon when she sleeps on the bosom of the sea...There's nothing in the world as white as your body. Let me touch your body!

 

[She reaches for him suddenly, but he backs away]

 

JOKANAAN: Get away from me, daughter of Babylon! It is by woman that evil entered the world. Don't talk to me. I don't want to listen to you. I hear only the words of the Lord God.

 

[Salome lunges at him, grabs what little rags he wears, and then yanks them from his body. Frail, thin, bleached, and ravaged by hunger and confinement, he is not a pretty sight. Salome recoils slightly, but she's still fascinated by the man]

 

SALOME: Your body is hideous! Like the body of a leper. It's like a plaster wall that vipers have crossed, a plaster wall on which scorpions have made their nests. It's like a whitened sepulcher, which is full of disgusting things. It's horrible! Your body's horrible--

 

[She gazes at him again, moves slightly closer, reaches out with her hand towards his head.. He backs away.]

 

SALOME: It's your hair that I love, Jokanaan. Your hair looks like clusters of grapes, clusters of black grapes that hang on the vines of Edom in the country of the Edomites. Your hair is like the cedars of Lebanon, the tall cedars of Lebanon which shade the lions and thieves who wish to hide during the day. The long black nights, nights when the moon doesn't shine, or the stars are afraid, are not as black. The silence which blankets the forest isn't as black. There's nothing in this world that's as black as your hair. Let me touch your hair!

 

[Jokanaan backs away from her]

 

JOKANAAN: Get away from me, daughter of Sodom. Don't touch me. Do not defile the temple of the Lord God.

 

[Salome lunges, manages to touch his hair. She recoils.]

 

SALOME: Your hair is horrible. It's covered with mud and dust. Like a crown of thorns that's been placed on your forehead. Like a knot of black serpents that have writhed around your neck. I don't like your hair...It's your mouth that I love, Jokanaan. Your mouth is like a scarlet stripe upon an ivory tower. Like a pomegranate cut by an ivory knife. The pomegranate flowers that flourish in the garden of Tyr and are redder than roses--even they are not as red. The red calls of the trumpets that announce the arrival of kings, and put fear in the enemy, even these are not as red. Your mouth is redder than the feet which press out wine. It's redder than the feet of the doves that dwell in the temples and are fed by the priests. It's redder than those who return from the forest after killing a lion and seeing the golden tigers. Your mouth is like a coral branch that the fishermen have found in the twilight of the sea, and which is reserved for kings....It is like the vermillion that the Moabites find in the mines of Moab and which kings take for themselves. It is like the arch of the king of Persia which is painted with vermillion and which has coral horns. There's nothing in this world as red as your mouth. Let me kiss your mouth.

 

[She lunges at him again, but just as quickly, he pulls away from her]

 

JOKANAAN: Never! Daughter of Babylon! Daughter of Sodom! Never!

 

SALOME: I want to kiss your mouth, Jokanaan. I want to kiss your mouth.

 

NARRABOTH: Princess, princess, you who are like a bouquet of myrrh, you who are the dove of doves, don't look at this man, don't look at him. Don't talk to him about such things. I can't allow it....Princess, princess, don't speak of these things.

 

SALOME: I want to kiss your mouth, Jokanaan.

 

[Narraboth draws his dagger and plunges it into his heart]

 

NARRABOTH: Ah!

 

[His body falls between Salome and Jokanaan]

 

SAMARA: The young Syrian has killed himself! The young captain has killed himself! I gave him a small bottle of perfume and some silver ear-rings, and now he's killed himself! Ah! Didn't he predict that something bad would happen?....I predicted it myself, and it has arrived. I knew the moon was searching for a corpse, but I didn't know she was looking for him. Ah! Why didn't I hide him from the moon? I should have hidden him in some cave so she wouldn't see him.

 

1st SOLDIER: Princess, the young captain has killed himself.

 

SALOME: Let me kiss your mouth, Jokanaan.

 

JOKANAAN: Have you no fear, daughter of Herodias? Didn't I tell you I heard the beating of the wings of the angel of death in the palace, and did the angel not come?

 

SALOME: Let me kiss your mouth.

 

JOKANAAN: Daughter of adultery, there's only one man who can save you. It's he of whom I speak. Go and look for him. He's in a boat on the sea of Galilee, and he talks to his disciples. Kneel down beside the sea and call on his name. When he comes near you--and he comes to all who call on him--prostrate yourself at his feet and ask him for the remission of your sins.

 

SALOME: Let me kiss your mouth.

 

JOKANAAN: Be accursed, daughter of an incestuous mother, be accursed!

 

SALOME: I will kiss your mouth, Jokanaan.

 

JOKANAAN: I don't want to look at you. I won't look at you. You are accursed, Salome, you are accursed.

 

[Jokanaan descends back into the well]

 

SALOME [Looking into it]: I will kiss your mouth, Jokanaan, I will kiss your mouth.

 

1st SOLDIER: We need to take the body away from here. The Tetrarch doesn't like to look at corpses, save those he's killed himself.

 

SAMARRA: He was my brother, even closer than a brother. I gave him a little box of perfumes, and an agate ring which he always wore on his hand. At night, we walked together next to the river, and amongst the almond trees, and he recounted things about his country. He always spoke in a quiet voice. The sound of his voice resembled the sound of the flute of a flute player. He also loved to look at his reflection in the river. I used to reproach him for that.

 

2nd SOLDIER: You're right. We have to hide the body. We can't let the Tetrarch see it.

 

1st SOLDIER [Shrugs]: The Tetrarch won't come here. He never comes on the terrace. He fears the prophet too much.

 

[Herod enters, with Herodias and the rest of the court]

                                  

HEROD: Where's Salome? Where's the princess? Why hasn't she returned to the feast like I commanded? Ah! There she is.

 

HERODIAS: You don't have to look at her. You're always looking at her.

 

HEROD: The moon has a very strange aura tonight. Doesn't the moon have a strange aura? Like a hysterical woman, a hysterical woman who seeeks out lovers everywhere. She's naked, too. She's totally naked. The clouds seek to clothe her, but she doesn't want them to. She staggers through the clouds like a drunk woman...I'm sure she's looking for lovers...Doesn't she stagger like a drunk woman? She looks like a hysterical woman, doesn't she?

 

HERODIAS: No. The moon looks like the moon, that's all...Let's go back inside. You don't have anything to do out here.

 

HEROD: I will stay! Manasseh, put the carpet down there. Light the torches. Bring out the ivory tables, and the jasper tables. The air out here's delicious. I'll drink wine with my guests again. It's necessary to give all honour to the ambassadors of Caesar.

 

HERODIAS: It's not because of them that you want to stay...

 

HEROD: Yes, the air's delicious. Come, Herodias, our hosts are waiting for us. [He suddenly slips, then regains his balance] Ah! I slipped! [He looks at the floor, bends down, wipes his fingers across it] I slipped on blood! It's a bad omen, a very bad omen. Why is there blood here?...[He looks in the shadows]...And this body? What is this body doing here? Do they think I'm like the king of Egypt who never throws a feast without showing a body to his hosts? So, who is he? I can't see who it is.

 

1st SOLDIER: It's our captain, my Lord. The young Syrian whom you made captain three days ago.

 

HEROD: I never gave orders to have him killed.

 

2nd SOLDIER: He killed himself, my Lord.

 

HEROD: What? Why? I made him captain!

 

2nd SOLDIER: We don't know why, my Lord. But, he did kill himself.

 

HEROD: That seems strange to me. I thought only the Roman philosphers killed themselves. Tigellinus--don't the Romans have some philosophy regarding suicides?

 

TIGELLINUS: There are those who believe in killing themselves, my Lord--the Stoics. They're somewhat of a boorish people. Actually, they're a very ludicrous people. Even I, myself, find them very ludicrous.

 

HEROD: I, too. It's ludicrous to kill yourself.

 

TIGELLINUS: We laugh a lot about them in Rome. The Emperor wrote a satirical poem about them. We recite it everywhere.

 

HEROD: Ah! So he wrote a satirical poem about them? Caesar is marvellous. He can do anything...It's odd that the young Syrian killed himself. That's regrettable. Very regrettable. He was so very handsome. He had very languid eyes. I seem to recall that he used to look at Salome in a languid fashion. Come to think of it, he looked at her a little too much.

 

HERODIAS: There are others who look at her too much...

 

HEROD: His father was king. I drove him from his kingdom. And you, Herodias, made his mother, the queen, a slave. Consequently, he was here like a guest. That's why I made him captain. I regret his death...However, why has the body been left here? It has to be moved elsewhere. I don't want to look at it...Get rid of it!

 

[The soldiers gather up the body of the young Syrian and drag it offstage]

 

HEROD: It's cold here. And windy. Isn't it windy?

 

HERODIAS: No. There's no wind.

 

HEROD: Yes, there is a wind...and I hear the beating of wings...like the beating of gigantic wings. Can't you hear them?

 

HERODIAS: I don't hear anything.

 

HEROD: I don't hear it any more. But, I did hear it. Without doubt, it was the wind. It's gone now...But, no--I hear it again. Can't you hear it? It sounds like the beating of wings.

 

HERODIAS: There's nothing, I tell you. You're sick. Let's go back inside.

 

HEROD: I'm not sick! It's your daughter who's sick. She looks very sick, your daughter. Never have I seen her so pale.

 

HERODIAS: I told you not to look at her.

 

HEROD [to the slaves]: Pour some wine!

 

[A slave pours some wine in a goblet and gives it to Herod]

 

HEROD: Salome, come drink a bit of wine with me. I have some wine here that's just exquisite. Caesar himself sent it to me. Wet your little red lips with it, and then afterwards I will drain the cup.

 

SALOME: I'm not thirsty, Tetrarch.

 

HEROD: Did you hear what your daughter said to me?

 

HERODIAS: She has good enough reason. Why are you always looking at her?

 

HEROD [to the slaves]: Bring some fruit!

 

[A slave brings a bowl of fruit to Herod. He takes one from it.]

 

HEROD: Salome, come here and eat some fruit with me. I would very much like to see your little teeth marks in the fruit. Bite a tiny morsel of this fruit, and then I will eat the rest.

 

SALOME: I'm not hungry, Tetrarch.

 

HEROD: That's how you've raised your daughter!

 

HERODIAS: My daughter and I are descended from a royal lineage. As for you--your grandfather tended camels. He was also a thief.

 

HEROD: You lie!

 

HERODIAS: You well know that's the truth.

 

[Angrily, Herod storms across to a bench and sits down. He pats the empty space beside him]

 

HEROD: Salome, come sit next to me. I will give you your mother's throne.

 

SALOME: I'm not tired, Tetrarch.

 

HERODIAS: You see what she thinks of you...

 

HEROD: [to the slaves]: Bring some--...What do I want? I don't know. Ah! Ah! I remember--

 

JOKANAAN [in the well]: The time has come! That which I prophesied has come to pass, says the Lord God. This is the day of which I've spoken.

 

HERODIAS: Tell him to be quiet! I don't want to hear his voice. That man always spews abuses against me.

 

HEROD: He hasn't said anything against you. Also, he's a very great prophet.

 

HERODIAS: I don't believe in prophets. How can any man say what's going to happen? No one knows. Besides, he's always insulting me. But, I think you're afraid of him...Come to think of it, I know full well you fear him.

 

HEROD: I'm not afraid of him. I fear no one.

 

HERODIAS: Yes, you're afraid of him. If you're not afraid of him, why haven't you given him up to the Jews who, over the past six months, have demanded him from you.

 

1st JEW: Indeed, my Lord, it would be better to hand him over to us.

 

HEROD: Enough of that! I've already given you my answer. I don't wish to give him to you. This is a man who's seen God.

 

1st JEW: But, that's impossible. No one except the prophet Elijah has seen God. He's the last one to have seen God. These days, God doesn't show himself; he hides himself. And because of that, there are great calamities in the land.

 

2nd JEW: But then, we don't know that the prophet Elijah actually saw God. Rather, it could have been the shadow of God that he saw.

 

3rd JEW: God never hides himself. He always shows himself, everywhere and in everything. God can be found in the evil and in the good.

 

4th JEW: That's not a good thing to say. That's a very dangerous idea that comes from the Alexandrian schools where they study Greek philosphy. And the Greeks are gentiles. Besides, they're uncircumcised.

 

5th JEW: We don't understand how God works, his ways are too mysterious. Perhaps that is why we call evil good, and and at other times call good evil. We don't know anything. We have to submit to everything. God is all powerful. At the same time, he breaks both the weak and the strong. He doesn't favour one or the other.

 

1st JEW: That's very true. God is fearful. He breaks the weak and the strong like one mashes corn in a mortar. [He points to the well] But this man has never seen God. No one has seen God except the prophet Elijah.

 

HERODIAS: Oh, make them stop! They're annoying me.

 

HEROD: But, I've heard it said that Jokanaan himself is your prophet Elijah.

 

1st JEW: That can't be. It's been three hundred years since the time of the prophet Elijah.

 

HEROD: There are those who say he is the prophet Elijah.

 

A NAZARENE: Indeed, I'm sure he's the prophet Elijah.

 

1st JEW: No, he isn't the prophet Elijah.

        

JOKANAAN [from the well]: The day is come, the day of the Lord, and I hear on the mountains the feet of him who shall be the Saviour of the world.

 

HEROD: What's he talking about? What Saviour of the world?

        

TIGELLINUS: It's a title that Caesar took.

        

HEROD: But Caesar hasn't come to Judaea. Yesterday, I received some letters from Rome. None of them said anything about that. Come to think of it, you, Tigellinus, spent the winter in Rome--did you ever hear of this?

        

TIGELLINUS: Truthfully, sire, I heard no one speak of it. I only explained the title. It is one of Caesar's titles.

        

HEROD: Caesar can't come here. He has the gout. I've heard his feet are as big as an elephants. And, there are affairs of the state to attend to, as well. He who leaves Rome loses Rome. He won't come. But, then again, Caesar is the master. He will come if he wishes. But, I don't think he'll come.

        

1st NAZARENE: The prophet isn't talking about Caesar, my lord.

        

HEROD: Not Caesar?

        

1st NAZARENE: No, sire.

        

HEROD: Of whom, then, does he speak?

        

1st NAZARENE: Of the Messiah who has come.

        

A JEW: The Messiah hasn't come!

        

1st NAZARENE: He has come, and he's performing miracles everywhere.

        

HERODIAS: Oh! Oh! Miracles. I don't believe in miracles. I've seen too many of them. [to page] My fan.

        

[Apparenly not listening, the Page ignores her]

        

1st NAZARENE: This man performs real miracles. For example, on the occasion of a marriage he attended in a small village in Galilee, an unimportant village, he changed water into wine. People who were there told this to me. He also healed two lepers who sat beside the entrance to Capernaeum, only by touching them.

        

2nd NAZARENE: No, they were two blind people who he healed at Capernaeum.

        

1st NAZARENE: No, they were two lepers. But he also healed the blind, and others saw him talking on a mountain with angels.

        

A SADDUCEE: Angels don't exist.

        

A PHARISEE: Angels do exist. But, I don't believe this man talked to any.

        

1st NAZARENE: He was seen talking to angels by a multitude of bystanders.

        

HERODIAS: These men are so aggravating! They're stupid. They're all acting so stupid. [to Page] Hey! Well, my fan!

        

[The Page gives her the fan]

        

HERODIAS: You look like a dreamer. Do not dream. Dreamers are sick.

        

[She raps the Page's head with her fan]

        

2nd NAZARENE: Of course, there's the miracle of Jairus's daughter.

        

1st NAZARENE: But, of course. That one is certain. You can't deny it.

        

HERODIAS: These people are mad! They've been looking at the moon too much. Tell them to be quiet.

        

HEROD: What's that about, the miracle of Jairus's daughter?

        

1st NAZARENE: Jairus's daughter was dead. He brought her back to life.

        

HEROD: He resurrects the dead?

        

1st NAZARENE: Yes, sire. He resurrects the dead.

        

HEROD: I don't want him doing that. I forbid him to do that. I won't allow anyone to raise the dead. Find him and tell him that I won't permit anyone to raise the dead. Where is this man at the present time?

        

2nd NAZARENE: He's everywhere, sire, but he's very difficult to find.

        

1st NAZARENE: I've heard it said he's currently in Samaria.

        

A JEW: One can well see, then, that he's not the Messiah, if he's in Samaria. The Messiah would not come to the Samaritans. Samaritans are accursed. They never bring offerings to the temple.

        

2nd NAZARENE: He left Samaria several days ago. Myself, I believe that, at this moment, he's in the countryside around Jerusalem.

        

1st NAZARENE: No, he's not there. I've just arrived from Jerusalem. No one's heard anything about him for nearly two months.

        

HEROD: All right, it makes no difference. But, it's necessary to get hold of him and tell him that for my part, I will not allow anyone to resurrect the dead. Change water to wine, heal the lepers and the blind...He can do this if he wishes. I've nothing to say against such things. In fact, I feel that healing the lepers is a good deed. But I will not allow him to raise the dead...That's a horrible thing--to have the dead return.

          

JOKANAAN [from the well]: Ah! the impudence! the prostitution! Ah! The daughter of Babylon, with her golden eyes and gilded eyelids. This is what the Lord God says. A multitude of men shall come against her. Let the people take up stones and stone her...

          

HERODIAS: Make him stop!

          

JOKANAAN [from the well]: Let the warlords pierce her with their swords, let them crush her beneath their shields.

          

HERODIAS: Oh, but, that is so vile!

          

JOKANAAN [from the well]: Therefore I shall abolish crimes from the earth, so that all women shall be taught not to imitate the abominations of this woman.

          

HERODIAS: Are you listening to what he's saying about me? Are you going to let him insult your wife?

          

HEROD: But, he hasn't mentioned your name.

          

HERoDIAS: What are you going to do about him? You well know he           seeks to insult me. And, I am your wife, am I not?

          

HEROD: Yes, my dear and dignified Herodias, you are my wife, and you were once the wife of my brother.

          

HERODIAS: But, it was you who took me from his arms.

 

HEROD: Truthfully, I was the stronger...but let's not talk about that. I don't wish to talk about it. It's because of those things that the prophet has spoken such dreadful words. Perhaps because of that, something dreadful is going to happen. So we won't talk of it...Noble Herodias, we've forgotten our guests! Pour me a drink, my beloved. Refill with wine the large silver goblets and the large crystal goblets. [Slaves refill their cups with wine] I'm going to drink to Caesar's health. There are Romans here--let us drink to Caesar's health.

 

ALL: Caesar! Caesar!

 

[Everyone takes their seats at the table, except Salome, who remains at a distance]

 

HEROD: Have you not noticed that your daughter is quite pale?

 

HERODIAS: What does it matter to you whether she's pale or not?

 

HEROD: I've never seen her so pale.

 

HERODIAS: It isn't necessary to look at her.

 

JOKANAAN [from the well]: On that day, the sun will become black like a sack of hair, and the moon will become as blood, and the stars in the heavens will fall to the earth like the green figs fall from the fig-tree, and the kings of the earth will be filled with fear.

 

HERODIAS: Ah! Ah! I would like to see that day he's talking about, when the moon becomes as blood, and the stars fall to the ground like green figs. This prophet speaks like a drunkard...But I can't tolerate the sound of his voice. I detest that voice. Command him to stop.

 

HEROD: But, no! I don't understand what he's talking about, but perhaps it could be an omen.

 

HERODIAS: I don't believe in omens. He speaks like he's drunk.

 

HEROD: Perhaps he's drunk on the wine of God!

 

HERODIAS: What wine would that be, the wine of God? What vineyards would that come from? In what wine-press would that be found?

 

HEROD: [From now on, he continues to stare at Salome]: Tigellinus, when you were last in Rome, did the emporer speak to you on the subject......?

 

TIGELLINUS: What subject, sire?

 

HEROD: What subject? Ah! I've asked a question of you, haven't I? I forgot what I wanted to know.

 

HERODIAS: You're looking at my daughter again. It's not necessary to look at her. I've already told you that.

 

HEROD: You haven't said anything else.

 

HERODIAS: I will repeat it.

 

HEROD: And the restoration of the temple they talk about so much? Are they going to do something about it? Don't they say that the sanctuary veil has disappeared?

 

HERODIAS: You took it. You're speaking wrongly and strangely. I don't want to stay here. Let's go back inside.

 

HEROD: Salome, dance for me.

 

HERODIAS: I don't want her to dance.

 

SALOME: I have no desire to dance, Tetrarch.

 

HEROD: Salome, daughter of Herodias, dance for me.

 

HERODIAS: Let her be.

 

HEROD: I command you to dance, Salome.

 

SALOME: I will not dance, Tetrarch.

 

HERODIAS [laughing]: That is how she obeys you.

 

HEROD [shrugs]: What do I care if she dances or not? It means nothing. I'm happy tonight. I'm very happy. Never have I been so happy.

 

1st SOLDIER: He seems sad, the Tetrarch. Doesn't he seem sad?

 

2nd SOLDIER: He does seem sad.

 

HEROD: Why wouldn't I be happy? Caesar, who is master of the world, who is master of all, likes me a lot. He sends me gifts of great value. As well, he's promised to summon to Rome the king of Cappadocea, who is my enemy. Perhaps in Rome, he will crucify him. He can do whatever he wants, Caesar can. For, indeed, he is the master. And so, you see, I've the right to be happy. There's nothing in the world that can spoil my pleasure.

 

JOKANAAN [from the well]: He will sit upon your throne. He will put on purple and scarlet. In his hand he will carry a vase of gold filled with blasphemies. And the angel of the Lord God will strike him. He will eat worms.

 

HERODIAS: You hear what he says about you. He says you're going to eat worms.

 

HEROD: He's not talking about me. He's saying nothing against me. It's the king of Cappadocea he's talking about, the king of Cappadocea who is my enemy. It's he who will eat worms, not me. Never has the prophet said anything against me except that I've wrongly taken as wife the wife of my brother. Perhaps he has reason. In any case, you're barren.

 

HERODIAS: I am barren. You said that--you who is always looking at my daughter, you who want to make her dance for your pleasure. It's ridiculous to say such a thing. I, myself, have one child. You've never had a child, not even from one of your slaves. It's you who is barren, not me.

 

HEROD: Hold your tongue. I've told you you're barren. You've not given me a child, and the prophet said that our marriage is not a true marriage. He claims that it's an incestuous marriage, a marriage that brings misfortunes...I'm afraid he's right. I'm sure he's right. But this is not the time to speak of such things. Right now, I want to be happy. In fact, I am very happy. There's nothing I want.

 

HERODIAS: I'm very pleased to see you in such a good mood tonight. It's not always your habit to be like that. But, it's late. Let's go back in. You haven't forgotten that at sunrise we're all going on a hunt. We must give all honour to Caesar's ambassadors, mustn't we?

 

2nd SOLDIER: The Tetrarch looks so despressed.

 

1st SOLDIER: Yes, he does look depressed.

 

HEROD: Salome, Salome, dance for me. I beg you to dance for me. Tonight, I'm so depressed. Yes, I'm very depressed tonight. When I came out here, I slipped on some blood, and that's a bad omen, and I've heard, I'm sure I've heard the beating of winds in the air, gigantic wings beating. I don't know what that means...I'm depressed tonight. So, dance for me. Dance for me, Salome, I beg of you. If you dance for me, you can ask of me whatever you will, and I will give it to you. Yes, dance for me, Salome, and I will give you whatever you ask, even half of my kingdom.

 

SALOME [rising]: You'll give me anything I ask, Tetrarch?

 

HERODIAS: Do not dance, daughter.

 

HEROD: Anything, even half my kingdom.

 

SALOME: Do you swear, Tetrarch?

 

HEROD: I swear.

 

HERODIAS: My daughter, do not dance.

 

SALOME: On what do you swear, Tetrarch?

 

HEROD: On my life, on my crown, on my gods. All that you want, I shall give to you, even half of my kingdom, if you dance for me. Oh! Salome, Salome, dance for me.

 

SALOME: You have sworn, Tetrarch.

 

HEROD: I have sworn, Salome.

 

SALOME: All that I ask of you, even half your kingdom?

 

HERODIAS: Do not dance, my daughter.

 

HEROD: Even half of my kingdom. As queen, you would be very beautiful, Salome, if it pleases you to ask for half my kingdom. Don't you think she would look very beautiful as queen? ... Ah! It's growing cold, here. There's a very cold wind, and I hear...Why do I hear the beating of wings in the air? Oh! Almost like a bird, a giant black bird hovering above the terrace. Why can't I see that bird? The beating of its wings is terrible. The wind that comes from its wings is dreadful. A cold wind...But, no, it's not cold at all. On the contrary, it's very hot. It's unduly hot...I'm suffocating. Pour water on my hands. Give me some snow to eat. Unfasten my cloak. Quickly, quickly, unfasten my cloak.

 

[Slaves come forward to do as he commands, but he throws up his hands and shoos them back]

 

HEROD: No! Let it be! It's my crown that makes me ill, my crown of roses. As if these flowers are made of fire. They're burning my forehead.

 

[He yanks the crown from his head and tosses it on the table]

 

HEROD: Ah! Finally, I can breathe. How red the petals are! Like spots of blood on the tablecloth. That means nothing. There's no need to look for symbols in everything that one sees. That would render life impossible. It would be better to say that the spots of blood are also as beautiful as the rose petals. It would be much better to say that...But, let's not talk about that. Now, I'm happy. I'm very happy. I have the right to be happy, don't I? Your daughter is going to dance for me. Aren't you going to dance for me, Salome? You've promised to dance for me.

 

HERODIAS: I don't want her to dance.

 

SALOME: I will dance for you, Tetrarch.

 

HEROD: You heard what your daughter said. She's going to dance for me. You've a good reason to dance for me, Salome. And, after you've danced, don't forget to ask for whatever you want. Anything you want, I will give to you, even half of my kingdom. I've sworn it, haven't I?

 

SALOME: So you've sworn, Tetrarch.

 

HEROD: And I've never broken my word. I'm not one of those who break their word. I cannot lie. I'm a slave to my word, and my word is the word of a king. The king of Cappadocea always lies, but he is not a true king. He is a coward. As well, he owes me money which he doesn't want to pay. He also insults my ambassadors. He says very offensive things. But, Caesar will surely crucify him when he's brought to Rome. I'm quite sure Caesar will crucify him. Otherwise, he will die eating worms. The prophet has predicted it. So! Salome, what are you waiting for?

 

SALOME: I'm waiting for my slaves to bring me perfumes and seven veils, and to remove my sandals.

 

[Slaves bring perfumes and seven veils, and remove Salome's sandals]

 

HEROD: Ah! You're going to dance in bare feet! How wonderful! How magnificent! Your feet will be like white doves. They resemble little white flowers dancing in a tree...Ah! No. There's blood on the ground. I don't want her to dance in the blood. That would be a very evil omen.

 

HERODIAS: Why do you care whether she dances on blood or not? You've well trod there, yourself...

 

HEROD: What is that to me? Ah! Look at the moon! It's become red. It's become red as blood. Ah! Well did the prophet predict it. He prophesied the moon would become as red as blood. Isn't that what he predicted? You all heard it. The moon has become red like blood. Don't you see it?

 

HERODIAS [Sarcastically]: I really see it, and the stars are falling like green figs, aren't they? And the sun has become black as a sack of hair, and the kings of the earth are filled with fear. That, one can plainly see. For one time in his life, the prophet is right. The kings of the earth are afraid...Well, let's go back in. You're sick. In Rome, they're going to be saying that you're mad. Let's go back in, I tell you.

 

JOKANAAN [from the well]: Who is he that comes from Edom, who comes from Bosra with his robe tinted purple; who shines in the beauty of his clothes, and who walks with an all-powerful army. Why are your clothes tinted in scarlet?

 

HERODIAS: Let's go in. That man's voice just exasperates me. I don't want my daughter dancing when he's yelling out like that. I don't want her dancing when you look at her like that. So, I don't want her to dance.

 

HEROD: Don't bother getting up, my wife, my queen, it's useless. I'm not going back in before she dances. Dance, Salome, dance for me.

 

HERODIAS: Do not dance, my daughter.

 

SALOME: I am ready, Tetrarch.

 

[Salome dances the dance of the seven veils]

 

HEROD: Ah! That was magificent, it was magnificent! You see, your daughter danced for me. Come near, Salome! Come near, so I can give you your reward. Ah! I pay dancers handsomely, I do. You, I shall pay abundantly. I will give you anything you ask. Pray, that is it you want?

 

SALOME [kneeling down]: I desire that they bring me in a silver basin...

 

HEROD [laughing]: In a silver basin? But, of course, in a silver basin, certainly. She's charming, isn't she? What do you want them to bring you in a silver basin, my dear and beautiful Salome, you who are more beautiful than all the young women of Jerusalem. What do you want them to bring you in a silver basin? Tell me. Whatever it is will be given to you. My treasures belong to you. What is it, Salome?

 

SALOME [rising]: The head of Jokanaan.

 

HERODIAS: Ah! Well spoken, my daughter.

 

HEROD: No, no.

 

HERODIAS: Well spoken, my daughter.

 

HEROD: No, no, Salome. Don't ask that. Don't listen to your mother. She's always given you evil counsel. Don't listen to it.

 

SALOME: I didn't listen to my mother. This is for my own pleasure that I demand the head of Jokanaan in a silver basin. You have sworn, Herod. Don't forget that you have sworn.

 

HEROD: I know that! I've sworn by my gods. I know that well enough. But, I beg of you, Salome, ask anything else of me. Demand half my kingdom, and I'll give it to you. But don't ask of me that which you have asked.

 

SALOME: I ask of you the head of Jokanaan.

 

HEROD: No, no, I can't.

 

SALOME: You have sworn it, Herod.

 

HERODIAS: Yes, you've sworn. The whole world heard you. You've sworn it before the whole world.

 

HEROD: Hold your tongue. I'm not talking to you.

 

HERODIAS: My daughter has good reason to demand the head of this man. He's spewn out insults at me. He's spoken monstrous things against me. One can see how she loves her mother. Don't back down, now, my daughter. He's sworn, he's sworn.

 

HEROD: Silence! Don't speak to me...Look here, Salome, let's be reasonable about this, shall we? Don't you think we need to be reasonable? I've never been hard towards you. I've always loved you...Perhaps I've loved you too much. However, don't ask this of me. In reality, I don't believe you're serious. The decapitated head of a man--that's an ugly thing, isn't it? It's not the sort of thing a young lady should look at, is it? What pleasure would there be in giving that to you? None. No, no, you don't want that...Listen to me for a moment. I have an emerald, a large round emerald, a favourite of Caesar that was sent to me. If you look inside this emerald, you'll be able to see things that happen far away. Caesar himself takes an identical one with him when he goes to the circus. But, mine is bigger. I know it's bigger. It's the biggest emerald in the world. Don't you want that? Ask for that, and I will give it to you.

 

SALOME: I ask for the head of Jokanaan.

 

HEROD: You're not listening to me, you're not listening to me. All right, let me speak, Salome.

 

SALOME: The head of Jokanaan.

 

HEROD: No, no, you don't want that. You're only asking me that to cause me pain, because I've been looking at you tonight. All right, yes, I have been looking at you all night. Your beauty disturbs me. Your beauty disturbs me terribly, and I've always watched you. But, I won't do it any more. I won't look at things or people. Only at mirrors. Because mirrors show us the masks...Oh! Oh! Wine! I'm thirsty...Salome, Salome, let's be friends. All right, look...What was I saying? Where was I? Ah! I remember!...Salome! No, no, dont come near me. I'm afraid you're not listening to me...Salome, you know my white peacocks, my beautiful white peacocks that stroll in the garden between the myrtle and large cypress trees. Their beaks are golden, and the grains they eat are golden, too, and their feet are dyed purple. Rain falls when they cry out, and when they spread their tails, the moon rises in the sky. They go two by two between the cypresses and the black myrtles, and each has a slave to care for it. Sometimes they steal through the trees, and sometimes they sleep on the grass, and by the pond. There are no birds in the world as marvellous. No other king in the world possesses such magnificent and beautiful birds. So, I will give you fifty of my peacocks. They will follow you everywhere, and in the midst of them you will be like the moon in a great white cloud. I'll give you them all. I only have one hundred, but no other king in the world possesses peacocks like mine, but I will give them all to you. Only, do not hold me to my word, and don't ask that which you've asked.

 

[He drinks a cup of wine]

 

SALOME: Give me the head of Jokanaan.

 

HERODIAS: Well spoken, my daughter. [To Herod] You, you are ludicrous with your peacocks.

 

HEROD: Silence! You're always crying out. You scream like a hunted animal. You don't have to shout like that. Your voice bores me. Hold your tongue, I tell you...Salome, think of what you're doing. That man may, perhaps, come from God. I'm sure he comes from God. He's a holy man. The finger of God has touched him. God has put powerful words into his mouth. In the palace, like in the desert, God is always with him...At least, it's possible. We don't know for sure, but it is possible that God is with him and for him. It's also possible that if he dies, it will bring disaster. Truly, he's said that the day he dies, misfortune will happen to someone. I don't want it to be me. Remember, I slipped on the blood when I came out here. Also, I heard the beating of wings in the air, the beating of gigantic wings. They're a very bad omen. And there have been others. I'm sure there have been others which I haven't seen. So! Salome, you don't want some disaster to befall us, do you? You don't want that. So, listen to me.

 

SALOME: Give me the head of Jokanaan.

 

HEROD: You see, you're not listening to me. But, stay calm. Me, I'm very calm. I'm always calm. Listen. I have jewels hidden here which even your own mother has never seen, extraordinarily-made jewels. I've a necklace with four rows of pearls. Like moons linked together on a silver beam of light. Like fifty moons captured on a golden thread. A queen carries them on her ivory breasts. You, when you wear them, you will also be as beautiful as a queen. I have amethysts of two kinds--one is black as wine. The other, red like wine that has been mixed with water. I have yellow topazes like tigers' eyes, and pink topazes like pigeons' eyes, and green topazes like cats' eyes. I have opals that ever shine with a cold flame, and opals that grieve the spirits and make them fear the shadows. I have onyx stones that resemble the eyeballs of a corpse. I have moonstones which change when the moon changes, and become pale when they see the sun. I have sapphires like huge eggs, and blue ones like blue flowers. The sea flows within them, and the moon never troubles the blue of the waves. I have chrysolites and beryls, I have chrysoprases and rubies, I have sardonyxes and hyacinths, and chalcedonies, all of which I will give you, all of them, and I will buy you other things. The king of India has just sent me four fans made from parrot feathers, and the king of Numidia, a robe made of ostrich feathers. I have a crystal that women are not allowed to see, and which young men cannot look at until they have been flogged by rods. In a mother of pearl coffer, I have three marvellous turquoise stones. When carried on the forehead, one can imagine things that have never existed, and when carried in the hand, one can render women barren. These are treasures of great value. These are treasures without price. And that isn't all. In an ebony coffer, I have two amber cups which resemble golden apples. If an enemy pours poison in them, they become like silver apples. In another coffer, inlaid with amber, I have sandals inlaid with crystal. I have robes which come from the country of Seres, and bracelets garnished with carbuncles, and jade which comes from a city on the Euphrates...So, what do you want, Salome? Tell me which one you desire, and I will give it to you. I will give you all of them if you so ask, except one thing. I will give you everything I possess, except a life. I will give you the high priest's cloak. I will give you the veil of the sanctuary.

 

THE JEWS:  Oh! Oh!

 

SALOME: Give me the head of Jokanaan.

 

HEROD [collapsing on his chair]: Give her what she asks! She is indeed the daughter of her mother!

 

[1st Soldier approaches. Herodias takes the Ring of Death from the Tetrarch's hand and gives it to the soldier, who immediately takes it to the executioner. The executioner looks frightened]

 

HEROD: Who has taken my ring? I had a ring on my right hand. Who has drunken my wine? I had wine in my cup. It was full of wine. Has someone drunken it? Oh! I'm sure something disastrous is going to happen to someone.

 

[The executioner descends into the well]

 

HEROD: Ah! Why did I give my word? Kings should never give their word. If they do not keep it, it's terrible. When they do keep it, it's terrible, too.

 

HERODIAS: I find that my daughter has done well.

 

HEROD: I'm sure some calamity will befall us.

 

SALOME [She leans on the well and listens]  There's no noise. I can't hear anything. Why doesn't he cry out, this man? Ah! If someone sought to kill me, I would cry out, I would struggle and fight back, I wouldn't just let it happen...Strike, strike, Namaan. Strike, I tell you...No, I hear nothing. Just a terrible silence. Ah! Something has fallen to the ground. I heard something fall. That was the executioner's sword. He's afraid, that slave! He dropped his sword. He doesn't dare kill him. He's a coward, this slave! It's necessary to send the soldiers.

 

[She sees Herodias' slave and calls to her]

 

SALOME: Come here! [The slave comes over] You were a friend of the one who's dead, weren't you? Well, there aren't enough corpses. Tell the soldiers to go down and bring me what I've asked for, which the Tetrarch promised, that which belongs to me.

 

[Samara shakes her head and cowers away]

 

SALOME: Soldiers, come here!  [They approach Salome] Go down into the well and bring me the head of that man.

 

[The soldiers shake their heads and cower away]

 

SALOME: Tetrarch, Tetrarch! Command your soldiers to bring me the head of Jokanaan.

 

[A large black arm, the arm of the executioner, leaves the well carrying the head of Jokanaan in a silver basin]

 

[Salome siezes it]

 

[Herod hides his face with his cloak]

 

[Herodias laughs and fans herself]

 

[The Nazarenes kneel down and begin to pray]

 

SALOME [to the head]: Ah! you haven't let me kiss your mouth, Jokanaan. Well, I will kiss it now. I will bite it with my teeth like a bite into a ripe fruit. Yes, I will kiss your mouth, Jokanaan. I told you I would, didn't I? I told you. Well, I will kiss it now.

 

[She moves to kiss the lips on the head, but stops]

 

SALOME: But, why aren't you looking at me, Jokanaan? Your eyes which were so terrible, which were so full of anger and scorn, they're closed, now. Why are they closed? Open your eyes! Lift your eyelids, Jokanaan! Why aren't you looking at me? Are you afraid of me, Jokanaan, that you don't want to look at me? ...And your tongue which was like a red serpent spitting poison, it doesn't move at all, it's not saying anything, now, Jokanaan, this red viper that spat its venom at me. It's strange, isn't it? How one so like a red viper doesn't move at all...You didn't want me, Jokanaan. You rejected me.  You said vile things to me. You treated me like a courtesan, like a prostitute, me, Salome, daughter of Herodias, Princess of Judaea. Well, Jokanaan, I'm alive, but you're dead, and your head belongs to me. I can do what I want with it. I can throw it to the dogs and the birds in the air. That which the dogs leave,  the birds of the air will eat...Ah! Jokanaan, Jokanaan, you were the only man I loved. All the other men aroused my disgust. But you, you were handsome. Your body was an ivory column on a silver pedestal. It was a garden full of doves and silver lilies. It was a silver tower decorated with ivory shields. Nothing else in the world was as white as your body. Nothing else in the world was as black as your hair. Nothing else in the world was as red as your mouth. Your voice was an incense burner which emitted strange perfumes, and when I gazed at you, I heard strange music. Ah! Why don't you look at me, Jokanaan?  You hid your face behind your hands and your blasphemies. You put a scarf over your eyes which would let you see your God. Well, you've seen him, your God, Jokanaan, but me, me...you never looked at me. If you looked at me, you would have loved me. I--I saw you, Jokanaan, and I loved you. Oh! How I loved you. I love you still, Jokanaan, I love no one but you...I thirst for your beauty. I hunger for your body. And neither wine nor fruit can appease my desire. What am I going to do, now, Jokanaan? Neither the rivers nor great oceans can extinguish my passion.  I was a Princess, you have scorned me. I was a virgin, you have deflowered me. I was chaste, you have filled my veins with fire...Ah! Ah! Why didn't you look at me, Jokanaan? If you looked at me, you would have loved me. I well know you would have loved me, and the mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death. It's not necessary to look for love.

 

HEROD: She is not human, your daughter, she is totally subhuman. Really, what she has done is a great crime. I'm sure it's a crime against the unknown God.

 

HERODIAS: I approve of what my daughter has done, and I'm staying here, now.

 

HEROD: [rising]: Ah! the incestuous spouse speaks! Come! I don't wish to remain here. Come, I said. I'm sure that disaster is coming. Manaaseh, Issachar, Ozias--snuff out the torches. I don't wish to see these things. I don't want these things looking at me. Put out the torches. Hide the moon! Hide the stars! Let's hide ourselves in our palace, Herodias. I am beginning to be afraid.

 

[The slaves extinguish the torches. The stars disappear. A large black cloud passes across the sun and hides it completely. The scene becomes completely dark. The Tetrarch begins to climb the staircase]

 

SALOME: Ah! I have kissed your mouth, Jokanaan, I've kissed your mouth. There's an bitter taste on your lips. Is that the taste of blood? ... But, perhaps it's the taste of love. It's been said that love has a bitter taste....But, what does it matter? What does it matter? I have kissed your mouth, Jokanaan, I have kissed your mouth.

 

[A ray of light falls on Salome and illuminates her]

 

HEROD [returning and seeing Salome]: Kill that woman!

 

[The soldiers rush forward and crush Salome, daughter of Herodias, Princess of Judaea, beneath their shields]

 

CURTAIN


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