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St Joan

a play by G. B. Shaw, first performed in 1923 and published in 1924. Written in an idiomatic and at times light-hearted style, with the characters saying (in Shaw's words) ‘the things they actually would have said if they had known what they were really doing’, this traces Joan of Arc's story from Vaucouleurs to Rouen. She charms and chivvies the local squire, Baudricourt, into sending her to Chinon, where she cannily picks the Dauphin out from his courtiers and persuades him to give her the power that results in the storming of Orleans. The Earl of Warwick plots with the Bishop of Beauvais, Cauchon, to capture and try her as a heretic; she is rejected by the Dauphin, whom she has just crowned, and warned by her other ‘friends’ that she cannot rely on them. Then comes her capture, a trial that Shaw is at pains to suggest was scrupulously fair, and her burning; this is followed by an epilogue, a dream sequence in which Joan's posthumous admirers, including a modern Vatican bureaucrat, ‘spring to their feet in consternation’ at her suggestion that she might return from the dead. As Shaw sees her, she represents a vitalist rebellion against every aspect of the status quo, military, political, social, sexual, ecclesiastic, and spiritual; but she is also a vividly realized individual, gauche and jaunty at first, arrogant later, but always single-minded in her pursuit of what she regards as God's will and plain common sense.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Souvenirs to St Joan of the Stockyards (Die heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe)