Herod's "Dance Monologue": The Manifestation of Sexual Neuroses through Symbolic Language

The monologue of King Herod just preceding the Dance of the Seven Veils (Wilde, 50-53) demonstrates the depth of the King's desperate neuroses. While his intention is to implore Salome to dance for him, Herod ends up delivering a capricious, repetitious, and intensely self-conscious monologue. He leaps between symbols, similes, metaphors, and occasional puns, and he takes on a tone that is alternately panicky and desperate. Furthermore, his rambling address touches on a variety of topics -- including ominous symbols and the King of Cappadocia -- tied together by the King's nervous paranoia and his goal of successfully entreating his stepdaughter. The structure of this monologue and the symbolism and wordplay involved define Herod's position in the play as a neurotic, ineffectual person constantly in fear of the perceived symbols and omens around him. These fears and the style of the monologue are inextricably linked to Herod's desire to see Salome's dance and his psychoneurotic nature caused by this fetish.

Herod's "Dance Monologue" follows a conversation among he, Herodias, and Salome in which certain topics Herod focuses on during the monologue were first mentioned: the King of Cappadocia,...

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