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Introduction

Oscar Wilde's Salomé, though most often read in its English translation and performed as a German opera, was originally conceived and written as a French play by an Irish playwright, and it is in this context of cross-channel literary influence that the play should be examined.

Wilde is an example of the "typical situation of an Anglo-Irish author living outside Ireland and in this case often writing in French, yet shaped as much as Congreve or Farquehar or Shaw, by his Dublin upbringing”( Jeffares, A. Norman : Anglo-Irish Literature, p.257.Satzinger 301).Already distanced from English society, he found refuge and acceptance in France, its culture, and even its language. He became, according to Kelver Hartley, “le premier auteur français de race anglaise depuis Antoine Hamilton et Beckford.”("The first author of the English race since Antoine Hamilton and Beckford." Ricaumont de, Jacques : op. cit., p. 58. Satzinger 301) Yet his liminal status in France and in French forced and allowed him to absorb the French influence and transform it into something uniquely his own. Nowhere is this more evident in his borrowed and innovative, influenced and influential, French and English play Salomé.

Salomé “symbolizes France, Wilde’s francophony,”(Satzinger 189) yet does this through the eyes of an outsider, an Anglophone. Thus Salomé is an homage and reworking of theme’s from French symbolists such as Mallarmé, Flaubert, and Huysman and “Wilde’s most extreme and personal expression of Decadent feeling.”(Stokes, John. Oscar Wilde, p.33. Satzinger 190) This “Decadent feeling” he both received from France and imparted on it. Jacques de Langlade recalls the influence of Wilde on fin-de-siècle Paris, where « il mit en janvier 1882 les œillets verts à la mode chez les fleuristes. »("He made in January 1882 green eyelets fashionable amongst florists" Langlade de, Jacques. Oscar Wilde, Ecrivain Français ; found on website) « Par son exemple Wilde avait créé le précédent –un précédent auquel on ne pouvait dénier ni le rang, ni l’éclat, ni la figure. » ("By his example Wilde had created the precedent- a precedent whose importance, impact, or figure one was not able to deny" Satzinger191 ) Likewise Jaques de Ricaumont stated that the

héritage qu’il a reçu de ce pays, il l’a légué à son tour à des générations d’écrivains français en y ajoutant un apport personnel considérable qui, aux yeux de ses exégètes, a presque toujours masqué son patrimoine.

heritage that he received from this country, he left as a legacy in his turn to generations of french writers while adding a considerable personal contribution which, in the eyes of his exegetes, almost always masked his homeland. (Ricaumont de, Jacques : op. cit., p.56 ; Satzinger 297)

For an artist intensely concerned with masks and performance, a play in French was the perfect tool with which he could play with identity, language, and sexuality; a façade whose very choice of language became an intrinsic part of its aesthetic purpose. This play was Salomé.

Introduction

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