After Shaw’s play “Pygmalion” (1913) made famous in the last half century by the musical “My Fair Lady” “St. Joan” (1923) must be his best known. It is certainly most quotable and was written just 3 years after Joan of Arc was declared a Saint. The play has been called a tragedy without villains and that is a very good description, indeed. The grand inquisitor, another fanatic, is just as ardent a speaker for his cause as Joan is for hers.
Shaw’s script is based on a well documented history; in 1429 a young country girl known as Joan of Arc though most call her simply “The Maid”, appeals to Robert de Baudricourt asking for men, horses and armor because she has heard the voices of St. Margaret and St. Catherine commanding her to go to the Dauphin of France, have him crowned King and raise the siege of Orleans which was occupied by the British. Needless to say, she is thought quite daft but she is so persuasive that slowly but surely she has men following her. De Baudricourt OK’s the expedition and sure enough she wins the day. Later, she wishes to go on and take Paris because god wants France to belong to the French. Her arrogance knows no bounds and those that followed her before are not willing to see her killed after her “beginners luck”. Her insistence that she is doing god’s work is finally too much for the Church. When an inquisitor is sent by the Pope she is tried and finally burned at the stake.
|Joan as Warrior|
|Joan as Persuader|
|Joan over King Charles|
We should remember, however, that “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”