“Surface and Symbol”: Wilde’s Salomé, French Symbolism and Yeats (1891–1906)

  • Noreen Doody


Wilde’s Salomé was a highly influential text for W.B. Yeats. This chapter examines Wilde’s play as a symbolist text, looking at it in the context of contemporaneous French symbolist writing. Wilde’s play was a supremely successful dramatic expression of symbolist doctrine and as such was most attractive to Yeats who was deeply interested in and had a profound knowledge of symbolism.

The impact on Yeats of seeing Salomé in performance for the first time was such that he immediately began a radical revision of three plays which until then he had considered finished, The Shadowy Waters, On Baile’s Strand and Deirdre. The chapter explores the reasons why Salomé had such a strong effect on Yeats. It highlights features that appear in Salomé that were of particular interest to Yeats and re-occur in his later work: a cumulative single emotion, a metaphysical theory of the coincidence of opposing forces and certain symbols.



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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Noreen Doody
    • 1
  1. 1.Dublin City UniversityDublinIreland

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