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A.M. Gorky Institute
of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

IWL RAS Publishing

A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences


Povarskaya 25a, 121069 Moscow, Russia



Types of publications

Information about the author:

Natalia M. Solntseva, DSc in Philology, Professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Leninskie Gory 1, 119991 Moscow, Russia.


E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


There are well-known stories about the execution of St. John the Baptist, which are based on the text of the Gospel, the iconographic tradition, and also apocryphal ones, which are based on the author’s interpretations of folk legends. In the description of the prophet Esenin used the simultaneous principle of icons depicting a Saint holding his own head. In the works of Klyuev the icons of John the Baptist are associative. Gumilev and Andreev turned to the Orthodox characterization of the actors in the gospel story. Religious correctness is not violated in the simultaneous lyrics of Block, who projected the image of John’s severed head on his existential experiences. Flaubert generally followed the tradition. In Mallarme’s poem “Herodias” there is no direct indication of the role of Herodias in the execution of the Baptist, but there is an opposition of their worldviews. Marienhof also used the poetics of reticence. In the world literature there are examples of blurring the boundaries of good and evil, thinning moral criteria. If John is always an uncompromising preacher and prophet, then the psychological portraits of Herodias, Salome and Herod become more complicated. Deviation from the Biblical axiology is the basis of the works of Heine, Wilde, Remizov. The article focuses on the sources of the apocryphal interpretation of the circumstances of John’s death, indicates the role of the motive of Eros in the modernization of the plot, and identifi es the symbolic meanings of the characters. The novelty of the research lies in the appeal to a quiet large range of texts.

  • Keywords: apocryphal, interpretation, Herod, Herodias, Baptist, Forerunner, Salome.


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