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JOAN OF ARC is credited in yesterday’s Part 1 here at SimanaitisSays with listening to heavenly voices and uniting France against the English. For this, she was burned at the stake in 1431 and canonized as a saint in 1920. As Miss Dougherty taught us in high school, Joan also inspired compelling theater by George Bernard Shaw and Jean Anouilh.
Shaw’s Saint Joan. In 1923, George Bernard Shaw celebrated Joan’s canonization in the play Saint Joan, which he characterized as “A Chronicle Play in 6 Scenes and an Epilogue.”
My GBS Introduction. Miss Dougherty was particularly enamored of two scenes in George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan: Joan’s aiding nobleman Robert de Baudricourt and her encounter with Dunois, the Bastard of Orléans.
Baudricourt complains that his hens aren’t laying eggs. Joan tells him that her voices have urged attack of English-held Orléans. At first he’s reluctant to take part, but her straightforward sincerity charms him and changes his mind. A steward comes in and excitingly announces that the hens are laying again.
Later, approaching Orléans, Joan and Dunois discuss tactics, in particular a needed change of wind for his battle plan to commence. By the way, Dunois’ Bastard moniker is no pejorative: He’s a grandson of France’s King Charles V.
Dunois explains in practical terms the need for the wind change. Joan suggests it’s time to believe her voices and rally his troops. The scene concludes with that beneficial change of wind.
Just a Suffragette? Shaw’s play was not without controversy. Wikipedia cites T.S. Eliot’s criticism that, “instead of the saint or the strumpet of the legends to which he objects, he has turned her into a great middle-class reformer, and her place is a little higher than Mrs. Pankhurst (the militant leader of the British suffragettes).”
Anouilh’s The Lark. Miss Dougherty’s other Joan of Arc favorite was Jean Anouilh’s L’Alouette, The Lark, first produced in France in 1952, with an English-language Broadway production in 1955. Christopher Fry did the English translation; Lillian Hellman adapted it for Broadway; Leonard Bernstein composed the incidental music.
Julie Harris won a Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in 1956 for her portrayal of Joan. Boris Karloff’s Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, earned him a nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actor.
As described by Wikipedia, “The play covers the trial, condemnation, and execution of Joan, but has a highly unusual ending.” In something of miracle, the fire is extinguished and Joan is given a reprieve.
“The actual end of the story is left in question,” Wikipedia says, “but Cauchon proclaims it a victory for Joan.”
A 2018 View. In theculturetrip.com, April 30, 2018, Jade Cuttle offers “The Truth About Joan of Arc, the Teenage Girl Who Commanded the French Army.”
Cuttle suggests Jehanne la Pucelle (Joan the Maid) was her medieval moniker, surnames being not all that common. Also, Joan might not have been a simple peasant girl from Domérey. How else to explain her talents in battle tactics? Cuttle also offers modern doctors’ views of neurological and psychiatric aspects of her voices.
Charges Against Joan. Cuttle notes, “… in fact, there were 70 charges against her. These ranged from stealing horses to claiming that God had directly contacted her, as well as the sorcery she was widely scandalized for. But by May 1431, these 70 charges had been narrowed down to just 12, mostly related to the fact that she wore men’s clothes.”
Interesting views indeed, though Cuttle doesn’t directly address Joan’s encouraging hens to lay or winds to change direction. Maybe these come under sorcery? ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021