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SALOME

The speaker is Salome, a biblical character. 
Salome is famous for demanding the head of 
John the Baptist. 
Her father was a disinherited son of Herod. The 
story is that her stepfather, Herod Antipas was 
so taken with her lascivious dancing that he 
offered to give her whatever she desired, up to 
half his kingdom.

She was persuaded by her mother to call for 
the head of John the Baptist. 

In paintings Salome is depicted dancing, or 
bearing a platter with the severed head.

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SALOME
THE ONE NIGHT STAND

In her poem, Duffy presents Salome as a 
modern girl‐on‐the‐town, who often goes out 
drinking and ends up with a one night stand.  
This is made clear at the start

I’d done it before
(and doubtless I’ll do it again,
sooner or later)
woke up with a head on the pillow beside me ‐ 
whose?  ‐
what did it matter?

What connotations are there in 'head on the 
pillow'?

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SALOME
Look carefully at the rhymes used in the poem. Knowing what you do about the biblical 
character and how Duffy begins her 20th Century version of Salome, how do you expect the 
poem to develop and how would you describe the tone of the poem? 

matter fitter Peter matted lighter laughter patter


biter slaughter clatter platter better pewter batter
latter beater clutter blighter glitter butter flatter

Read the poem paying particular attention to how rhyme is used.

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SALOME
THE POETRY OF CLICHE

In an interview in 1988 Carol Ann Duffy 
commented on her deliberate use of simple, 
everyday and cliched language:

I like to use simple words but in a


complicated way so that you can
see the lies and truths within a
poem.

Highlight the words which you think are 
deliberately cliched. Are they used in a 
'complicated' way to reveal truths?

How do you think Duffy has used the story of 
Salome to renew 20th Century cliches?

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SALOME
METAPHORICAL TRANSFORMATIONS

ON A PLATTER
A large shallow dish on which food was 
served, particularly at banquets.
SCALP:
As evidence that an Indian had killed his 
Now used metaphorically to mean without 
enemy, he would cut off the man's scalp 
exertion, effortlessly.
with the hair on it and carry it home, there 
to be honoured with a trophy.

Now used metaphorically to mean a 
trophy or a victory.
LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER
Slaughter: massacre
Using this knowledge, argue a case for reading the poem as 
an extended metaphor in which the woman takes the men  Used metaphorically to mean someone 
she sleeps with as trophies and then abandons them. innocent and helpless, without realising 
the danger
Argue against this view!

What are the lies and truths behind Duffy's use of simple 
language and use of cliche here?

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SALOME AGREE?

Critical Comment on the Poem...

We are given a narrative of 'the morning after the night before' which works to give a
kind of realistic account of a hangover, and the surprise of finding a man whose
name you don't know in your bed, but then the narrative twists so that women who
might have identified with the story in their recognition of the behaviour, or rather
their fantasy about behaving in such a way, then become implicated in the fact that
Salome is not the world weary apologist she initially presents herself as. For actually
the head on the pillow is only a head.

The monologue ties into all sorts of contemporary 'myths' about the dangerousness of
female sexuality, and the still resonant taboos about female promiscuity. It clearly
carries with it a sense of revenge. Of tuning the tables for the women in history and
fiction who have been murdered by men, or punished for their excessive sexuality... The
implication in Duffy's tale is that Salome has committed the murder herself, whereas in
the biblical story the severing of the Baptist's head is only caused by Salome... Duffy
simply, it seems, wants to use Salome as a figure of jubilant and amoral power... the
Salome monologue unapologetically celebrates a behaviour which transgresses moral,
social and legal codes. Her behaviour is in effect licensed by its mythic quality.
Avril Horner: "Small Female Skull" in Strong Words 

OR DISAGREE?

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SALOME LOOKING OUTWARDS
OUTWARDS
Pick two or three other poems to compare  MRS SISYPHUS
with Salome.

Using different coloured pens, annotate the 
poems to show the similarities and differences  DELILAH
between them.
• form and structure
• voice All these poems 
MRS
• themes might be 
• metaphor/simile QUASIMODO compared with 
• word choices ﴾e.g. poetic, slang,  Salome.
cliche, biblical﴿
• humour ﴾irony, punning,  FRAU FREUD
incongruity, playing with 
stereotypes﴿
• sound techniques ﴾rhyme, 
alliteration, assonance﴿ EURYDICE