by Oscar Wilde

Madonna Mia

A lily-girl, not made for this world's pain,
With brown, soft hair close braided by her ears,
And longing eyes half veiled by slumberous tears
Like bluest water seen through mists of rain:
Pale cheeks whereon no love hath left its stain,
Red underlip drawn in for fear of love,
And white throat, whiter than the silvered dove,
Through whose wan marble creeps one purple vein.
Yet, though my lips shall praise her without cease,
Even to kiss her feet I am not bold,
Being o'ershadowed by the wings of awe,
Like Dante, when he stood with Beatrice
Beneath the flaming Lion's breast, and saw
The seventh Crystal, and the Stair of Gold.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

Al Pacino says a chance visit to a theatre in London first inspired him to tell the story of Oscar Wilde which he has made into the award-winning drama documentary, Wilde Salome.

Al Pacino did not even know Oscar Wilde had written a play called Salome when he went to see his friend - the actor, writer and director Steven Berkoff - at a London theatre.

Berkoff was playing the role of Herod and Pacino soon became gripped by the unfolding story of inevitable tragedy.

"There is something in the play that mesmerises, keeps you attentive even if you don't like it”
Al Pacino
"All during the play I wanted to know who the writer was because I felt connected in a way to something that I hadn't been connected to in a long time of going to the theatre,"
said Pacino.

"There is nothing recognisable in the play - nothing 'Wildean'. It is like a new playwright."

It was only when he looked down at his programme that he realised who the author was.

Salome tells the story of the stepdaughter of the tetrarch Herod Antipasm who falls for the prophet Jokanaan (John the Baptist) who has been imprisoned. When Jokanaan spurns her, she demands his head on a silver plate.

In order to secure her terrible revenge she exploits Herod's love for her by promising to dance for him if he promises to grant her a wish. It is only after the dance that she tells Herod what her wish really is and he feels forced to keep his promise.

Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854.
His work included The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest.
Salome was written in 1891 but never performed in Britain during Wilde's lifetime as it fell foul of the Victorian censors.
In 1895 the Marquess of Queensbury left a calling card at Wilde's club implying the playwright was a homosexual.
Queensbury's son Bosie Douglas was Wilde's lover.
Bosie, who hated his father persuaded Wilde to sue.
Oscar Wilde's grandson Merlin Holland said: "It is a prophetic play in a very strange sense in that it is easy to draw parallels between the plot of Salome and Oscar Wilde's life."

As Herod is tempted by Salome, so Wilde was manipulated by the young Bosie Douglas, after Douglas's father accused Oscar of being a homosexual.

"Bosie then says to Oscar Wilde, 'I want the head of my father on a charger'

"Oscar says this is rather more complicated than suing your father and bringing the whole matter into the public eye - but of course he does. He has no choice. He loves Bosie Douglas....

The libel trial brought out the details of Wilde's gay lifestyle and triggered a prosecution against him.
Wilde was imprisoned with hard labour for two years.
Salome eventually premiered in Paris in 1896 while Wilde was in prison.

Pacino was so taken by the story he decided to put on his own production, star in it and make a film about the story and Oscar Wilde. Al Pacino plays Herod.

He recalls an early part of the project, at a reading of the play, when the audience became engrossed with the tragic story in much the same way he had.

"There is something in the play that mesmerises, keeps you attentive even if you don't like it. You know you keep saying I don't like it but I have got to keep watching it," Pacino said.

Pacino went on to visit London, Paris, New York and Dublin to learn about the author, along with the film's producer Barry Navidi.
"Every piece of the DNA of Al Pacino is in the movie," said Navidi. "It is Al Pacino's journey, his obsession and his passion, his journey through the layers of the Salome documentary and of course Oscar Wilde."

Seduction, temptation and death

Dylan Eliot

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