Les Noces d'Hérodiade

The final version of Hérodiade, upon which Mallarmé was working at the time of his death in 1898, replaces the well-known Ouverture Ancienne with a "Prélude" that focuses upon the presence of the recently decapitated John the Baptist whose virile presence animates a previously lifeless scene and explains the vibrantly sensual appearance of Hérodiade in the "Scène." Because her newly-awakened erotic sensitivity frightens her, she tries to shield herself with hard, defensive imagery, but by the end of the "Scène" she becomes conscious of the softening of her defenses and recognizes that she requires the presence of Saint John whose head she demands in the "Scène Intermédiaire." In the incomplete lines of the "Finale," Hérodiade celebrates a physical and spiritual marriage with her purified lover. In her final monologue, Hérodiade discards the head of Saint John and evokes the marriage as a personal triumph; one senses, however, that Saint John has also triumphed, that he has managed to come alive again within Hérodiade, and that their union represents the necessary fusion of male and female, of spirit and body, of genius and beauty. (PJS)

Schwartz, Paul J
Volume 1972 Fall; 1(1): 33-42.