Salome is set in a biblical time and place, in a Palestinian biblical territory which is a meeting place of different nations, cultures, religions and philosophies. Herod Antipas, tetrarch and a ruler of one of the four parts into which the Romans divided Palestine, is hosting a feast in his palace. The tetrarch’s balcony in the palace resembles the lobby of the United Nations headquarters. It is a place where representatives of various peoples have gathered – Greeks, Palestinians, Syrians, Romans, Egyptians, Jews, Nazarenes ... In short, the world in miniature. And this world is Babylon, a place of dissipation and immorality.
The tetrarch’s guests have gathered for no special reason. Or maybe ... They are the »kings« of the country who have come to celebrate in an orgiastic fashion their status and to drink heavily, squander money, copulate, eat sumptuously, admire each other, be seen, exchange gifts and curses. The night of the tetrarch’s feast is a drunken and eroticized occasion, impregnated with unbridled lust. During the night of orgiastic bacchanalia, a flutter of an invisible bird of death is heard ... In this ill-fated night just before the dawn of the day, the pagan world is stirred by something eerie, and for the time being unknown to all. The arrival of something is in the air, as the evidence that the dissipated civilization of continuously altered maps is on the brink of collapse and perhaps a new birth is imminent.
Jokaanan, the Prophet who is shackled and locked in a dark well, speaks about this. In his words he scolds the tetrarch and, in particular, his depraved wife, Herodias. His speech is a pre-mortal agony. Although his thoughts are coded in encrypted messages, he predicts plainly and unequivocally the decline of the ruling world’s structure and announces the arrival of the Saviour. Jokaanan worships God who is not visible to the eyes, and speaks of the time to come, announcing the arrival of Him who »will open the eyes of the blind, so they shall see, and, unstop the ears of the deaf, so they shall hear ... «
In the world of soldiers and emperors, slaves and rulers, the beautiful Salome lives. The poetic beauty of the princess is compared to the pale Moon, who is like a dead woman. Salome’s image is mystical. She exudes a destructive Thanatos drive, residing in the body of its contradiction, Eros. This is precisely why Salome is fatally attractive. We can only guess what is concealed underneath her pallor. Undoubtedly, Salome is part of the decadent world. At the same time, she is a sacrosanct object of desire. Herod Antipas himself has lost his head over of her. He pursues her plainly and shamelessly, even in the presence of Herodias, Salome’s mother.
Salome’s world is sensual and carnal; it is a world of materialism, hedonism, shady lusts, passions ... Jokaanan’s world is spiritual. Salome recognises something new in Jokaanan, something spiritual and ascetic, as well as fanaticism of hallowed spirituality. Salome is unable to comprehend that this is something immaterial, that it is metaphysics and something that is not granted to her. And that is precisely what she desires as strongly as a potent passion of love. She mistakenly recognizes the metaphysics of spirituality for love. Or perhaps, as love is pure metaphysics, she falls in love with what love is. She wants to kiss the Prophet’s lips, but Jokaanan rejects her. Salome’s unfulfilled passion is fulfilled by an act of brutality. She orders the Prophet to be decapitated. In so doing, she accomplished the act of decapitating the values that are not granted to her. However, she does obtain her goal and kisses the Prophet.
Why does Salome insist on kissing Jokaanan? Is it an act of her genuine passion or is it plainly a decadent cold-bloodedness, a refusal to accept the fact that there is something more to it than sheer banality of the material and the sensual? Does Salome appreciate the true dimensions of love as a metaphysical condition, or does she decapitate the Prophet out of sheer vanity? Is the act of decapitation her premeditated act or merely an egocentric indulgence?
The significance of this symbolist play arises from its dealing with the decline of civilizations and empires, and with the moment of humanity being at the crossroads between spirituality and sensuality.