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La Sainte Courtisane


Or, the Woman Covered in Jewels

A Fragment


A Play in One Act.

This is an uncompleted play by Oscar Wilde. The original draft was misplaced and what is now extant is a collection of papers from the first draft put together by Wilde's friend and literary executor, Robert Ross. It resembles Wilde's famous play and was, in his own words "one of those beautiful coloured, musical things" that he had written. Its language has all the mysterious cadences of poetry or as Wilde said has the "sound of a pearl that falls on a silver basin". The play is about Sin and Redemption and Love. It is a theme that Wilde wrote about widely, and could be said to have an obvious connection with his life. He is the Myrrhina who has seen 'Sin in its painted mask and Dath in its robe of Shame' and through it come to the foot of the cross. He is also the Honorius who forsakes Christ to 'taste of the seven sins. Myrrhina is the Sinner and Honorius the Saint who reviles her. But he is weaker than Myrrhina, the courtesan at the end of the play. No one can know the mystery of Heavenly Love for which Christ died on the cross until he has known Sin also. The hermit in the cavern knows very little of temptation, so he cannot know much about Virtue also. Much of what the world calls Sin is merely Suffering and it is those who have gone to the lowest depths of degradation that man is capable of that he can build ladders to be nearer heaven. "One must make a hell to seek out a Heaven."--Submitted by C.S.

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la sainte courtisane

I was reading this play recently. What does to 'look on Death in its robe of Shame' mean in the very last line of the play? Can anyone suggest? Thanks.

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