Table of contents
2. Joan of Arc, the historical figure
3. Brief biography of Shaw and Schiller
3.1. George Bernard Shaw
3.2. Friedrich Schiller
4. Summary of the two plots
4.1 G.B. Shaw´s „Saint Joan“
4.2 Friedrich Schiller´s „The Maid of Orleans“
5.1. Joan´s outward appearance
5.2. Joan´s voices and visions
5.3. Joan´s mission
5.4. Joan´s downfall
6. Shaw´s basic ideas and his criticism on Schiller´s play
I write this essay within the scope of the seminar „History, Religion and the Modern Drama”. The drama “Saint Joan” by George Bernard Shaw was one of the major works we took a closer look at in the course of the semester and analysed from different points of view. The tragic work, which has been considered one of Shaw’s greatest and most important ones, has been hailed as being intellectually exciting and praised for dealing with important themes as nationalism, war, and the relation of the individual to society. The play certainly solidified Shaw's reputation as a major playwright.
Without any doubt “Saint Joan” is a very complex work, which offers a wide range of aspects open to interpretation. I decided to focus on the way Shaw depicts the character of Joan, because - apart from the historically picture of her person and the circumstances of her time - Shaw manages to interlace his own ideas on progress, nationalism and religion into the character of Joan. Therefore analysing her person and the role she fulfils within the drama is of central importance to get access to Shaw’s main ideas. Aside from the analysis of Joan’s character in G. B. Shaw’s drama, I decided to draw a comparison between Shaw´s main figure and the way Friedrich Schiller portrays the character of Johanna in his work “The Maid of Orleans”, which appeared at the beginning of the 19th century. Even though these two works both deal with the historical figure Joan of Arc, there are some huge differences not only concerning the portrayal of the historical events, but excessively so concerning the depiction of Joan’s character. These distinctions can certainly be ascribed to the particular features of Romanticism on the one hand, which is at the core of Schiller´s work, and early Modernism on the other hand, which is at the bottom of Shaw’s drama.
As a first step I want to start with a presentation of the historical figure Joan of Arc since it was her who inspired Shaw and Schiller to make Joan the protagonist of their literary work. Secondly I want to present a brief biography of Schiller and Shaw to get an idea about their life and the circumstances which have influenced their literary work. As a next step I will give a summary of both plots, presenting the main events. This way we get a rough impression about the protagonist’s involvement in the play and have a basis for the further analysis, which is meant to compare some central ideas about Joan that each playwright interpreted in his very own style. Then I want to point out some of Shaw’s basic ideas and point out what he thought about Schillers tragedy and how he justified his criticism on the play. Finally I want to take a critical look on my findings and come up with my conclusion.
2. Joan of Arc, the historical figure
In order to understand the character Joan of Arc, it is inevitable to take a closer look at the political situation of France at the end of the 14th/beginning of the 15th century. The major focus at that time was the conflict between England and France, which were at war intermittently between 1337 and 1453 based on the fact that Edward III of England and later Henry V lay claim to the French throne. It was in 1428 that the English forces occupied the northern part of France and lay siege to Orleans. At this point the young country girl Joan of Arc arrived on the scene and took a majour role in lifting the siege by leading the Dauphin´s troops to Orleans.
St. Joan of Arc was born around 1412 at the village of Domremy. At the very early age of about thirteen years she started hearing voices: those of St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret. In May 1428 these voices told her to go to the king of France and help him reconquer his kingdom. After lifting the siege of Orleans, which proved a crucial turning point for the French forces, further significant victories followed. In July 1429 Joan was invited to attend the coronation of Charles VII at Rheims Cathedral. It was in May 1430 that she was captured by Burgundian soldiers and handed over to the Bishop of Beauvais upon payment of ten thousand francs. The trial took place at Rouen at the end of March 1431. After Joan had changed the initial declaration that she repudiated her heresies, she was condemned to death and burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. 25 years later, the pope annulled the sentence passed on her and she was exonorated of all guilt. In 1920 she was ultimately canonised by Pope Benedict XV (see Cowley 2000, p. 102/103).
The character of Joan was a source of inspiration for many playwrights. Besides Schiller and Shaw, she became a central figure in the works of Shakespeare, Voltaire and Mark Twain.
3. Brief biography of Shaw and Schiller
3.1. George Bernard Shaw
Shaw was born in Dublin in 1856, but spent most of his adult life in England. He grew up in an Irish Protestant family living in a predeominantly Catholic community, which contributed to his distinct awareness of religious differences. He left Ireland in 1876 to join his mother and his two sisters, who had moved to London some years before. In 1882 he started to deal with the work of Karl Marx and became an ardent socialist. Two years later he joined the recently formed Fabian Society, a group composed of predominently middle-class socialists, who were convinced of the efficacy of democratic procedures. He produced a lot of pamphlets on behalf of the group. However, in time his faith in the efficiency of democratic procedures weakened and he backed out of his engagement in the group. In 1898 Shaw married Charlotte Payne-Townshend, a wealthy Irish socialist and moved to the village of Ayot St Lawrence. Meanwhile he was able to raise his reputation as a major writer. One of his best-known works became „Pygmalion“ (1914). In 1923 he released „Saint Joan“, two years before he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Shaw was known for his determination to confront important social issues in a frank and critical manner. He died in 1950 at the age of 96. It is interesting to notice that, following his cremation, his ashes were scattered in the garden of his home surrounding a statue of Saint Joan (see Cowley 2000, page 98-100).
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JOAN OF ARC
A French saint and a heroine in the Hundred Years' war was Joan of Arc. This farm girl helped save the French from English command and was often called the Maid Orleans and the Maid of France. Her inspiration led the French to many victories.
Joan Of Arc (In French Jeanne d'Arc) was born around 1412, in the village of Domremy, France. She was a peasant girl who, like many girls of that time, could not read or write. Her father, Jacques, was a wealthy tenant farmer and her mother, Isabelle Romee, taught her how to sow, spin, and cook which she was proud of. She also spent much of her time praying to and serving God. She lived like most children did at that time, until when she was about thirteen. According to Wagenknecht: "The Vision first came when she was first thirteen...." 1 The vision was Saint Michael who said she should be a good girl and go to church. When more and more Visions had come it started coming clearer to her and when she saw Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret her duty was clear, she was the chosen one to crown Charles the VII.
Since France had been fighting with England in what was called the Hundred Years' War, much of Northern France was captured by the English, including Reims where the coronation for kings had been held for over centuries before him. Since Reims was captured, Charles the VII, who had not yet been crowned; was still called the Dauphin. When Joan had these visions of Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, she told her family and friends. When she told her father, he would not let her go. After when these Visions told her that England and Burgundy, England's ally, were going to capture Orleans, one of France's last strong forces, she knew she had to react. She needed to go to the governor of Vaucouleurs, an agent of the Dauphin, and convince him to give her an army to escort her to the Dauphin.
She first needed an escort to come with her to see the governor so she asked her cousin, Durand Laxart. He, at first, was skeptical about it, but then he soon
came to Joan's side. When she told the governor, Robert de Baudricourt, he said she was a fool and she should go home. But after some time of waiting, Baudri-
court let her go, under his protection, to the Dauphin with male clothing, a sword,
a safe conduct pass, and a small escort. They departed February 23. They safely traveled at night on byroads for eleven days from Vacouleurs to Chinon. They slept in the open air and disguised Joan, so the English would not notice her when she attended Mass in the towns they went through.
After some time arriving in Chinon, she was escorted to where the Dauphin was. The Dauphin was among his courtiers and she carefully picked him out, while he was among his courtiers. She went there.
Jean Benedetti described it:
Joan made her entrance and according to Jean Cartier, Charles VII's official historian, curtsied as though she had been doing it her whole life. She was a striking woman who dressed, and in many ways behaved, like a man and yet had feminine qualities of compassion and tenderness. Everyone who met was impressed the force of her personality. She had 'charisma'. Moreover she provided a
minor wonder by recognizing the king who was hiding among his courtiers, trying to look inconspicuous, and doubtless succeeding. When she addressed him he de
denied that he was the king, pointing to one of his courtiers with the words, 'You are mistaken, there is the king.' But Joan persisted, calling him 'Gentle Dauphin'. 2
Joan and the Dauphin spent some time together talking together and she told him
that God has sent her there to tell him that God has said that he will be anointed
and crowned king in Reims.
The decision was to be postponed for a few months. There was a commission to inspect Joan's history; to make sure that she was really sent by God and not the devil. And Joan herself was questioned and tested at the University of Poitiers and she also had to have a verification by matron to prove that she was a virgin. After three weeks the court claimed that she was acceptable. Even though there were myths said about the situation, they wanted her story to be true. If it was not true, than who would save them? As Pierre Goubert stated, "She won the confidence and respect of rough soldiers and chiefs, who knew the legend that a maiden would save the kingdom that had been lost by a woman- Isabeau. To these people, what we regard as extraordinary, the marvelous or divine appeared normal." 3
The appointed rendezvous for the troops was Blois. Joan made sure that all the men in the army obeyed the Ten Commandments and kicked out all the loose
women. They had to confess their sins to a priest and receive Eucharist. Wagennecht pointed out that "And LaHire himself, that good-hearted roughneck, whose every word was an oath, was forbidden to swear except by his baton!" 4 Even though the army was living by religious rule, they did have fun. The Dauphin furnished her with armor, attendants, and horses before they left. Compton's Living Encyclopedia states that, "A special banner was made for Joan to carry in battle. On one side were the words 'Jesus Maria' and a figure of God, seated on clouds holding a glove. The other side had a figure of the Virgin and a shield, with two angels supporting the arms of France" 5
When Joan and her army arrived in Orleans on April 29th, she was not in command but her being there fired the army with confidence. Joan did not find the plans on how they were going to enter the enclosed city of Orleans acceptable so they used the plans she made up. Joan had helped save the enclosed town of Orleans from the English. The Voices still guided Joan and they told her very precise information on what to do but she often lost her sanity in battle. But for the fact
that these Voices guided her, and how she often got pulled away from certain death
or pulled away from being captured made the English think that they were dealing with the supernatural. As Jean Benedetti said:
Certainly the sight of a woman dressed in white armour, carrying a white banner and leading troops into battle, must have been impressive, whatever abuse they might throw at her. Besides her frequent trips to the fortifications, her summons to the English to surrender must have taken an magic aura, as though she had been trying to put a spell on them, or conjure them to surrender. 6
On May 4th, Joan took command with the attack at the Bastille of Saint Loup, and they conquered it easily because the English had not enough time to get equipped; this attack cleared the eastside of Orleans. They planned an attack to take the fortress of Les Tourelles, the key point in the disposition of the English. If they could take back Les Tourelles, the French could control the river again. In doing this, Joan was injured by an arrow that made a deep wound in her shoulder. They treated it with a dressing of lard and olive oil and Joan went back into battle. On an attack at Dunois, they had started attacking in the morning and by sunset they had made no progress and were about to retire when something miraculous
happened. Joan had went into a vineyard and prayed, then the fort opened and the
army entered and they captured the fort.
On May 8th, 1429, the English left their fortress and the siege of Orleans was over. That night victory was celebrated, the army went from church to church and was cheered by the town. But still the Dauphin had not been crowned yet. Joan was excluded from the meetings but she always ended up figuring what was happening, and there was a delay. Joan wanted him to be crowned right away and not after Paris was liberated, which was what Charles wanted. So Charles agreed to go to Reims for the coronation but during the planning time, he would campaign in Loire valley which was consolidated.
On July 16, the army, Joan, and Charles entered Reims. And on July 17, 1429, the Dauphin was crowned king of France, with Joan stood by by the king
holding her banner. This was her golden hour; she achieved her miraculous task her Visions set her out to do, and she was recognized for it.
They French decided to attack Paris, but the king's procrastination warded
Joan and her army from accorded attack. But Compiegne, Senilus, and Beauvais
were all captured. On August 28, an armistice was signed between France and Burgundy, which Joan did not favor. On September 8th, Joan attacked the Porte Saint Honore, Paris and failed. Here Joan, once again, was wounded, but this time in her thigh. Joan was taken away from Paris and Charles VII disbanded his army, from autumn of 1429 until the end of the following May. She participated in taking Saint Pierre le Moutier in autumn. And on May 23, 1430 Joan went out to Compiegne, which was then sieged by the Duke of Burgundy. When she entered the Burgundian lines, she was taken away from her soldiers and was caught.
While being a prisoner at Beaurevoir, she tried to escape twice. Once she locked her jailer in but they found her out and sent her back. The second time she wanted to go back to Compiegne, and since she was scared she would fall into the
English's hands, she jumped sixty feet from her tower at Beaurevoir, without listening to her Voices. A leap from that height would have ended any other human life but she survived with no broken bones and only minor injuries. When found she
was taken to Crotoy on the Somme, and there she was sold to the English to be
tried as a witch under an ecclesiastical court.
She was handed over to Pierre Cauchon, bishop of Beauvais, on January 3rd, 1431. The sittings had begun on February 21 and continued over a period of months. She was held in chains, harassed by countless questions, and threatened with torture over this period of months; Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret still gave her advice through all this. On May 24, 1431, Joan was taken to the cemetery where she she was to been burned at the stake unless she recanted, which she did. This is not really to clear to historians why she did that, but many believe that she did not understand what the recant meant. Wagenknecht stated that "Her own view, after she was herself again, or perhaps one should say her report and interpretation of the view of her Voices in that matter, was that she had imperiled her
soul to save her life: 'It was the fear of the fire which made me say what I did." 7 After her recanting she was sentenced from death to life of imprisonment. Of her being treated so softly, the English were furious. Joan had thought she was going
to be sent free but instead Cauchon sentenced her to perpetual imprisonment
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