Herod, king of Judaea, is feasting with his court in his palace on the Sea of Galilee. Narraboth, captain of the guard, gazes from the terrace with longing at Herod’s beautiful stepdaughter Salome. The princess comes outside to admire the moonlight. She hears the voice of John the Baptist, who has been imprisoned by Herod in a nearby cistern. John announces the coming of the Messiah.
Salome asks to see John the Baptist, but Narraboth, fearful of disobeying Herod’s orders, is hesitant. She persuades him to bring the prisoner out. John denounces Herod and his wife Herodias, Salome’s mother, who has married her dead husband’s brother.
Salome finds herself filled with desire for John. She sings of his beauty and her desire to kiss his mouth. Narraboth, unable to bear such behavior, kills himself, but she barely notices. Recognizing Salome as the daughter of Herodias, John curses her, and descends again to his dungeon.
Herod and Herodias emerge from the palace. The queen senses the lust he feels for Salome, and they quarrel. Herodias demands the death of John as retribution for his insults. Herod is reluctant to do so, since he considers John a holy man. Looking for a diversion, he asks Salome to dance. Initially unwilling, she agrees when Herod promises to do anything she desires in return.
When the dance is over, she demands the head of the Baptist. Herod is appalled by this, but he eventually agrees. From the cistern, the executioner presents her the head on a silver dish. She takes it joyfully, kissing his mouth. Horrified, Herod orders Salome killed. The guards crush her to death with their shields.