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Herodias   By: (1821-1880)

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In the historical novel "Herodias," Gustave Flaubert brings to life the ancient world, captivating readers with his vivid portrayal of characters and intricate storytelling. Set in the Roman province of Judea during the reign of Herod Antipas, the narrative revolves around the infamous figure of Herodias, the ambitious and manipulative queen.

Flaubert's attention to historical detail is impeccable, transporting readers to a time of political turmoil and religious conflict. Through meticulous research, the author paints a rich and accurate picture of the era, shedding light on the complex dynamics between the Jewish community and the Roman occupation. The descriptive imagery employed throughout the novel is remarkable, evoking every sight, sound, and scent of the setting, immersing the reader in the world of the biblical past.

One of the novel's strengths lies in Flaubert's masterful character development. Herodias, the woman who instigates the downfall of John the Baptist, emerges as a fascinating and enigmatic protagonist. The author skillfully explores her motivations, revealing her unyielding thirst for power and influence. Despite her morally questionable actions, Flaubert delicately humanizes Herodias, instilling a sense of empathy and understanding in the reader. Through her complex persona, the author raises thought-provoking questions about the nature of ambition and the lengths one is willing to go to achieve their goals.

Furthermore, Flaubert's writing style is as captivating as ever. His prose is a testament to his literary prowess, filled with rich and poetic language. Each sentence is carefully crafted, drawing the reader into a world of elegance and intrigue. The depth of his descriptions and the complexity of his sentences might require some patience from the reader, but the effort is immensely rewarding.

However, while "Herodias" is an undoubtedly well-written and meticulously researched novel, it is not without its flaws. At times, the pacing becomes slow, particularly in the middle chapters, where the narrative drags on. Additionally, some readers might find the excessive attention to detail overwhelming, hindering the flow of the story. These aspects might limit its appeal to those with a particular interest in historical fiction and those willing to invest time and effort in fully appreciating the novel's nuances.

In conclusion, Gustave Flaubert's "Herodias" is a masterpiece of historical fiction, transporting readers to a bygone era and offering a captivating exploration of power, ambition, and religious conflict. Despite its occasional pacing issues and the level of detail that might challenge some readers, the novel's strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. Flaubert's meticulous research, brilliant character development, and compelling writing style make "Herodias" a must-read for any lover of historical fiction and a testament to the author's enduring literary legacy.

First Page:


By Gustave Flaubert


In the eastern side of the Dead Sea rose the citadel of Machaerus. It was built upon a conical peak of basalt, and was surrounded by four deep valleys, one on each side, another in front, and the fourth in the rear. At the base of the citadel, crowding against one another, a group of houses stood within the circle of a wall, whose outlines undulated with the unevenness of the soil. A zigzag road, cutting through the rocks, joined the city to the fortress, the walls of which were about one hundred and twenty cubits high, having numerous angles and ornamental towers that stood out like jewels in this crown of stone overhanging an abyss.

Within the high walls stood a palace, adorned with many richly carved arches, and surrounded by a terrace that on one side of the building spread out below a wide balcony made of sycamore wood, upon which tall poles had been erected to support an awning.

One morning, just before sunrise, the tetrarch, Herod Antipas, came out alone upon the balcony. He leaned against one of the columns and looked about him.

The crests of the hill tops in the valley below the palace were just discernible in the light of the false dawn, although their bases, extending to the abyss, were still plunged in darkness. A light mist floated in the air; presently it lifted, and the shores of the Dead Sea became visible... Continue reading book >>

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