Versions and premieres

Rehearsals for the play's debut on the London stage, for inclusion in Sarah Bernhardt's London season, began in 1892, but were halted when the Lord Chamberlain's licensor of plays banned Salomé on the basis that it was illegal to depict Biblical characters on the stage. The play was first published in French in February 1893, and an English translation, with illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley, in February 1894. On the Dedication page, Wilde indicated that his lover Lord Alfred Douglas was the translator. In fact, Wilde and Douglas had quarrelled over the latter's translation of the text which had been nothing short of disastrous given his poor mastery of French — though Douglas claimed that the errors were really in Wilde's original play. Beardsley and the publisher John Lane got drawn in when they sided with Wilde. In a gesture of reconciliation, Wilde did the work himself but dedicated Douglas as the translator rather than having them sharing their names on the title-page. Douglas compared a dedication to sharing the title-page as "the difference between a tribute of admiration from an artist and a receipt from a tradesman."[1]

The play was eventually premiered on 11 February 1896, while Wilde was in prison, in Paris at the Comédie-Parisienne - (at the Théâtre de l'Œuvre in some accounts[2])- in a staging by Lugné-Poe's theatre group, the Théâtre de l'Œuvre.[3] In Pall Mall Gazette of 29 June 1892 Wilde explained, why he had written Salomé in French:

"I have one instrument that I know I can command, and that is the English language. There was another instrument to which I had listened all my life, and I wanted once to touch this new instrument to see whether I could make any beautiful thing out of it. [...] Of course, there are modes of expression that a Frenchman of letters would not have used, but they give a certain relief or colour to the play. A great deal of the curious effect that Maeterlinck produces comes from the fact that he, a Flamand by grace, writes in an alien language. The same thing is true of Rossetti, who, though he wrote in English, was essentially Latin in temperament."[4]

A performance of the play was arranged by the New Stage Club at the Bijou Theatre in Archer Street, London, on 10 and 13 May 1905, starring Millicent Murby as Salome and directed by Florence Farr.[5] In June 1906 the play was presented privately with A Florentine Tragedy by the Literary Theatre Society at King's Hall, Covent Garden. The Lord Chamberlain's ban was not lifted for almost forty years; the first public performance of Salomé in England was produced by Nancy Price at the Savoy Theatre on 5 October 1931. She took the role of Herodias herself and cast her daughter Joan Maude as Salomé.[6]

In 1992 the play was performed on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre, under the direction of Robert Allan Ackerman. Sheryl Lee starred as the title role alongside Al Pacino. The play costarred Suzanne Bertish, Esai Morales and Arnold Vosloo.

Al Pacino said in an interview that a new production of the play where he will star as King Herod is to open in London's West End in 2016.[7]

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