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Salome | Symbols



Veils appear frequently in Salome. The young Syrian describes Salome as a "little princess who wears a yellow veil." The enticement Salome uses to get the young Syrian to release Iokanaan is a smile directed at him through the muslin veils of her litter when she passes by. The Temple veil, which marked off an inner room called "the Holy of Holies," is stolen when the Temple is destroyed. By stealing it, Herod has taken what does not belong to him. Iokanaan tells Salome to cover her face with a veil and go seek the Son of Man. Finally in Salome's dance the seven veils enhance Salome's sexual appeal as she removes the veils one by one.

In these instances, veils symbolize the protection of something holy, either in the religious sense or in the bodily sense. The veils at first protect Salome. The young Syrian sees her through her yellow veil and briefly anticipates a smile through a muslin veil. They protect her innocence and virginity. Veils are removed only for a thief, literal or figurative, to get what is wanted either through destruction of a religious house of worship or the boundaries of desire.

The Moon

Throughout the play the moon symbolizes a woman in different stages: grief, innocence, and sinfulness. The page of Herodias first mentions the moon, likening it to a woman looking for the dead. The page describes the image to the young Syrian, and the vision serves to foreshadow the young Syrian's suicide. The page, a believer in omens, blames the moon for the Syrian's death and wishes he had hidden his friend from the moon. Shortly after this observation Salome first likens the moon to herself, a pale virgin who has not abandoned herself to men. She is indeed innocent at the beginning of play when she escapes from the feast and the leering gaze of her stepfather.

Herod, with his own thoughts in mind, sees the moon as a naked, drunken woman calling for lovers: an accurate description of what he wants from Salome. However, he later notices the moon has turned red. Iokanaan has in fact prophesied the moon will turn to blood, becoming red to show the destruction of sin by God and by his own actions to stop sinful women like Herodias and Salome. When Herod sees later what Salome has done with Iokanaan's head, he shouts out to "hide the moon," calling upon it to go away so no light shines on what has just been done: the murder of Iokanaan and Salome's kiss to the dead man's mouth. The clouds cover the moon, but when a beam of moonlight shines on Salome, the king orders her killed to avoid having to see her evil or having to take responsibility for his part in it.


In addition to sexual desire, fruit symbolizes the body of the beloved. When Salome admires Iokanaan's hair, before he rejects her again, she compares it to "clusters of black grapes that hang from the vine-trees of Edom." She also refers to his mouth as a "pomegranate cut in half with a knife of ivory" and "pomegranate-flowers ... redder than roses." Later in the play Herod asks Salome to eat ripe fruits with him because he likes to see the marks of her teeth on the fruit and wants to eat the fruit she has tasted, a reference to sexual contact and an indirect way for him to kiss Salome's mouth.

Iokanaan, too, uses fruit as a symbol. He describes the stars falling out of the sky as figs falling from fig trees. This image of fruit refers to the sins of lust and blood, of the forbidden sexual contact he wants to eradicate. When Salome says she will kiss Iokanaan's dead mouth, she also says she will bite it as she bites a ripe fruit.

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