In modern age society, women who exhibit extraordinary qualities face opposition more so from males not necessarily because of gender issues. Males simply fear the impact that would accompany such a choice of supporting those women who stand out amongst others in society. For that reason, more often than not, those women get persecuted or even eliminated from the society and afterward made saints, as evident in the case of Joan of Arc.
Joan of Arc is an example of the most controversial historical figures to have ever existed, has been hailed and authored several times. Saint Joan by Bernard Shaw is one of the most notable versions of the story of Joan of Arc. A chronicle play published in the year 1924, four years later, following the canonization of Joan of Arc by the Catholic Church. Bernard Shaw presents the life and trial of Joan of Arc. Joan's intuition and clear understanding of her historical mission are brought out. The play put to the fore the paradox that human beings fear and often get rid of their heroes and saints. The paper is premised on the paradox that human beings fear and often kill their heroines and saints who are especially women.
To begin with, in the modern world today, people are faced with a myriad of challenges. Some of these challenges are beyond our understanding. However, with the presence of persons exhibiting extraordinary abilities that can solve our problems, we tend to give in and accept them (Shaw 10). We look up to them as our savior when in need, thereby allowing them into our lives.
Bernard Shaw's play of Saint Joan reflects on the same. The first scene of the play opens up with a crisis. Captain Robert de Baudricourt expresses his disappointment to his steward, who is an employee in charge of Robert's large homes and estates (Shaw 16). Robert is frustrated about his chickens, not laying eggs, and also the cows' inability to produce milk.
Steward believes that the misfortune that is befalling them may have resulted from a curse from God despite being accused of stealing those feedstuffs by his boss, Robert. Steward's act of informing Robert that the cows and chicken will only return to their normal state if Robert agrees to meet with 'the Maid' shows acceptance (Shaw 18). Acceptance is the essence that, Steward acknowledges that 'the Maid' (Joan's nickname) has got exceptional abilities to intercede on their behalf to put an end to his perceived curse.
Already Steward has allowed Joan into his world and is relying on her for assistance towards Robert's animal's abnormalities (Shaw 23). While Joan is waiting to see Robert, she can spend some time with Robert soldiers, notably Polly. Steward is unable to send her away as per his boss's initial orders.
Robert and the soldiers get motivated and inspired by the courage and conviction wielded by Joan, making it impossible for them not to associate with her. Also, at the time Joan's seek audience with Robert, France is in a desperate situation, and Polly believes that only a miracle can save the case. France's situation is brought out as a large scale crisis (Shaw 30).
During that time, France has been experiencing significant losses brought about by bad governance, and at the same time, Orleans is sieged by the English troops. Moreover, France's line of succession had cut off Dauphin Charles, which was a move justified by putting his paternity into questions (Shaw 36). Polly, who was one of the soldiers of Robert, get inspired by Joan and sees her as some sort of divine messenger.
Polly envisions Joan as having the ability to make people believe whatever she wants them to believe. For that reason, he persuades Robert to give in to Joan's wants since he sees the potential in Joan in turning the tide of war in France (Shaw 41). Despite Robert being a very skeptical man, he agrees to the wishes of Joan.
Joan had gone to Robert's castle seeking a sword and armor to be attired in a soldier's regalia to break the siege of Orleans. The large scale crisis involving the French and the small scale crisis involving Robert's animals presents some sort of confusion and uncertainty among the characters (Shaw 39). As a result, Joan's self-logic, courage, calmness, and strength get to inspire other characters prompting them to accept her. They see her as their hope and savior in those times of uncertainty.
Furthermore, La hire, La Tremouille, Archbishop, Bluebeard, and Dauphin Charles pledge their allegiance to Joan. They agree to support Joan's quest for breaking the siege of Orleans by English troops by leading the French troops (Shaw 56). They can perceive Joan as an angel who forewarned the death of Frank and thereby seeing her as one possessing miraculous power.
People from all walks of life accept her because she has something unique to offer. Despite the heroic acts shown by women wielding exceptional abilities, debates, and arguments depicting fear often crop up amongst people (Shaw 59). There comes a time when a society's heroic women are viewed with contempt and suspicion, forcing people to detach themselves from such individuals.
For instance, Archbishop fears Joan, and as a result, he is hesitant to consent to Robert's move of allowing Joan to lead the French troops in the raging war (Shaw 66). The Archbishop does not warmly receive Joan's move to adorn in a soldier's attire and the fact that she spends most of her time with soldiers. Joan defies the odds by refusing to conform to feminine norms, thus making others around her to fear her.
The Duchess of Tremouille feels offended at the sight of Joan clad in military regalia and becomes rude to her. Jack Dunois, nicknamed 'the Bastard' who is in charge of the French troops in the seized territory of France named Orleans, shows his impression towards Joan but, at the same time, curious about her involvement in the warfare (Shaw 28). He develops fear towards her as he envisions some sort of ambiguity when a woman takes charge of the war.
De Stogumber and Warwick develop fear towards Joan successive defeats suffered by English troops engineered by Joan (Shaw 9). The duo perceived Joan's mysterious showdown in the warfare as her works of witchcraft. As a result of fear, Warwick places a bounty on Joan's head and works closely with Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, to bring down Joan.
Cauchon perceives Joan as a tool of the devil, and being a clergyman; he feels obligated to save her soul. He has such convictions because he sides with the English making him fail to see Joan as a saint (Shaw 64). Moreover, Cauchon gets angry with Joan for purporting that she can talk directly to God.
Cauchon views such a claim as disrespectful to the church since it reduces its authority and power. The church is considered to be an intermediary between the people and God. For that reason, Cauchon relates Joan to the Islamic prophet Muhammad and fears that there is a possibility of the spread of Islamic influence in Europe.
Cauchon also fears that if nothing is done to Joan, the church is going to lose its power and control. Unlike Cauchon, whose fear is based on a religious perspective, Warwick's fear is on a secular view (Shaw 71). He's main fear lies in authority in Joan's act of bequeathing Dauphin Charles the French throne.
To him, if Joan is not gotten rid of, she would give kings powers, which would, in turn, reduce the power and influence of feudal lords. Cauchon and Warwick unanimously concede to the fact that the two values, 'Protestantism' and 'Nationalism,' which they fear most are what Joan is standing for. Joan's act of putting on men's clothes scares De Stogumber making him fear her (Shaw 78).
Charles feels relieved when Joan announces that she is traveling to her home after the coronation, an indication that Joan's presence was already becoming unpleasant. Both La hire, and Bluebird agrees with Charles that the coronation exercise was uncomfortable and did not express any gratitude (Shaw 86). Archbishop further labels Joan's move to take Paris before traveling home as an offense of pride.
He insists that if Joan is captured in the process, the church would not come to her rescue but instead let her perish. We expect people to be supportive to those individuals who have been saints to them and not to abandon them at their hour of need (Shaw 88). When a woman shows signs of greatness, she will affect the people due to her views, therefore, making her a dangerous pawn.
She would be seen as a threat, and there would be plots to get rid of her. In the play, Saint Joan, Joan demonstrates excellent leadership skills after she succeeded in winning back Orleans and five other French towns (Shaw 89). However, in scene IV, the Earl of Warwick (Richard de Beau champ), Cauchon (Bishop of Beauvais), and Chaplin (De Stogumber) are plotting to get rid of Joan.
Joan is a threat to the church's position in society. Cauchon says that she ignores the church totally, and she presumes to bring messages from God directly. She does not consult the church and, therefore, acts as though she is the church (Shaw 77).
Therefore, he labels her as a heretic. He goes ahead to list previous heretics and vows to destroy her. Additionally, Joan poses a great danger to the feudal class (Shaw 79). This is because, with her views, all nobility would have to surrender their lands to a king.
"Her idea is that the Kings should give realms to God and then reign as God's bailiffs." This reason makes Warwick feel the need to get rid of Joan (Shaw 70). This new system would shift allegiance from feudal Lords directly to the King, therefore, increasing his power.
She is a threat to the existence of feudalism and authority of the church; hence the Chaplin agrees and wants her destroyed. Despite her great achievements, Joan receives animosity from the court, and she fails to understand it (Shaw 90). But the truth of the matter is that she had proven herself continuously as superior to most important and influential men. As such, they would get the urge to get rid of her as she showed and revealed their incompetence. For example, she was responsible for the crowning of the King instead of the Archbishop. Further, Dunois tells Joan that regardless of being loved and adored by the ordinary soldiers and the masses, she did not have many friends at the court.
The King also feels threatened and horrified after Joan declares her wish to take back Paris before going home. He wants an immediate treaty and no more fighting. A battle would only mean that there would be someone else contesting for the throne. Her determination proves to be a threat to Charles' kinghood. If Joan had lived among other people, they would begin to trust their judgment and ignore the church interpretation. Therefore, as seen in her trial, after she recanted the document of heresy, she was immediately named a relapsed heretic and condemned to be burned.
Earlier before the trial, we get to learn that Warwick had ransomed Joan's captors before turning her to the ecclesiastical court. Warwick insisted and demanded Joan's death as a political necessity regardless of the desire by Joan's judges to save her soul (Shaw 47). Lastly, the world is never ready to accept its saints, and only after their death is when they realize what they had rejected.
First, King Charles maintains in his opening remarks that were the maid to return to life; she would be burned again in six months. Wherever Joan is, she should take care of herself since she is nobody, and in the event she comes back to life; she would be burned again within six months. In the epilogue of the play, twenty-five years after Joan was burned, Joan is declared innocent of all charges for which she had been burned as a heretic. Joan's judges were declared to be perpetrators of four falsehoods, namely; corruption, fraud, malice, and cozenage. However, this news to Charles. The Vict...
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