George Bernard Shaw
The great Irish playwright’s impassioned dramatization of the life and trial of Joan of Arc.
Three years after Joan of Arc was canonized in 1920, George Bernard Shaw brought to the stage a more complex and human portrayal of the fifteenth-century French martyr, creating one of the theater’s most memorable and enduring female roles. Already renowned for plays such as Pygmalion, The Arms and the Man, and Major Barbara, Shaw presented Saint Joan as “A Chronicle Play in Six Scenes and an Epilogue.”
The play begins in February 1429 as a visionary peasant girl feels called to lead a French army against the English in the Hundred Years War in order to install Charles VII, the dauphin, to the throne. Rallying the troops, Joan plays a pivotal role in the siege of Orléans and in the crowning of Charles at Reims Cathedral. The play culminates with Joan’s trial for heresy after she is captured by opposing forces and ultimately condemned and burned at the stake. Through the device of an epilogue, Shaw dramatizes the reevaluation of Joan through a retrial a quarter century after her execution that clears her of heresy to declarations of her as a Christian martyr and ultimately almost five centuries after her death, her canonization as a saint.
Shaw’s Joan is an upstart and a rebel—sane, self-assured, proud, courageous, but still with the naivete of the teenager she was—who challenged the conventions of her time as well as those in power.
Having exhaustively researched the documents of her trial, Shaw added a preface and series of reflections on Joan to the published text of the play, which offer further insight into a legendary figure who continues to fascinate, intrigue, and provoke a myriad of interpretations, as well as ongoing productions of Shaw’s only tragedy.
This ebook has been professionally proofread to ensure accuracy and readability on all devices.