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Saint Joan - Penguin 565 Horizontal Bands…
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Saint Joan - Penguin 565 Horizontal Bands (edição 1952)

por Bernard Shaw (Autor)

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2,000216,225 (3.72)36
Winner of the 2011 Audie? Award for Best Audio Drama Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award SoundCommentary.com's The Best of the Best 2010 ?Joan of Arc, a village girl from the Vosges, was born about 1412?burnt for heresy, witchcraft, and sorcery in 1431?rehabilitated after a fashion in 1456?designated Venerable in 1904?declared Blessed in 1908?and finally canonized in 1920. She is the most notable Warrior-Saint in the Christian calendar, and the queerest fish among the eccentric worthies of the Middle Ages.??George Bernard Shaw With Saint Joan, Shaw reached the height of his fame as a dramatist. Fascinated by the story of Joan of Arc but unhappy with "the whitewash which disfigures her beyond recognition," he presents a realistic Joan at war, not just with British invaders but with realpolitik. This is a masterpiece of the theater of ideas, presented in the most eloquent, vital, human, and moving terms. Blackstone commissioned this production from the award-winning Hollywood Theater of the Ear.… (mais)
Título:Saint Joan - Penguin 565 Horizontal Bands
Autores:Bernard Shaw (Autor)
Informação:Penguin Books (1952)
Colecções:A sua biblioteca
Etiquetas:DS shelf 12

Pormenores da obra

Saint Joan por George Bernard Shaw

  1. 10
    The Trial of Joan of Arc por Joan of Arc (myshelves)
    myshelves: History can be more interesting than fiction.
  2. 10
    Joan of Arc por Mark Twain (myshelves)
    myshelves: Twain in serious mode; the novel is a well-researched and moving account of Joan.
  3. 00
    Joan of Arc: In her own words por Joan of Arc (TheLittlePhrase)
  4. 01
    The Lark por Jean Anouilh (RedEyedNerd)
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  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
Bernard Shaw

Saint Joan
Chronicle Play in Six Scenes and an Epilogue

Penguin Classics, Paperback, 2003.

12mo. xx+168 pp. Preface by Shaw, May 1924 [3-56]. Introduction by Joley Wood, 2000 [xvii-xx]. “On Playing Joan” by Imogen Stubbs [xiv-xvi].

First produced, 1923.
First published, 1924.
First published by Penguin, 1946.
First published in Penguin Classics, 2001.
Reprinted with a new Chronology, 2003.


On Playing Joan

- Joan the Original and Presumptuous
- Joan and Socrates
- Contrast with Napoleon
- Was Joan Innocent or Guilty?
- Joan’s Good Looks
- Joan’s Social Position
- Joan’s Voices and Visions
- The Evolutionary Appetite
- The Mere Iconography does not Matter
- The Modern Education which Joan Escaped
- Failures of the voices
- Joan a Galtonic Visualizer
- Joan’s Manliness and Militarism
- Was Joan Suicidal?
- Joan Summed Up
- Joan’s Immaturity and Ignorance
- The Maid in Literature
- Protestant Misunderstandings of the Middle Ages
- Comparative Fairness of Joan’s Trial
- Joan not tried as a Political Offender
- The Church Uncompromised by its Amends
- Cruelty, Modern and Medieval
- Catholic Anti-Clericalism
- Catholicism not yet Catholic Enough
- The Law of Change is the Law of God
- Credulity, Modern and Medieval
- Toleration, Modern and Medieval
- Variability of Toleration
- The Conflict between Genius and Discipline
- Joan as Theocrat
- Unbroken Success essential in Theocracy
- Modern Distortions of Joan’s History
- History always Out of Date
- The Real Joan not Marvellous Enough for Us
- The Stage Limits of Historical Representation
- A Void in the Elizabethan Drama
- Tragedy, not Melodrama
- The Inevitable Flatteries of Tragedy
- Some Well-meant Proposals for the Improvement of the Play
- The Epilogue
- To the Critics, lest they should feel Ignored

Saint Joan
Scene I
Scene II
Scene III
Scene IV
Scene V
Scene VI

[Dates of composition and cast of the first peformance]
Principal Works of Bernard Shaw


Saint Joan is Bernard Shaw’s last major play. He celebrated his 67th birthday while writing it between April and August 1923. He lived for 27 years more and continued to write plays almost until the end. Some of these are still read, published and even produced. But none of them can aspire to the success of Saint Joan, which remains one of Shaw’s most often revived and reviewed plays[1].

The Preface is one of Shaw’s longest, least rambling and most fascinating. It goes into considerable detail about Joan’s life, times, work, character and posthumous fate. It certainly piqued my interest, which is quite an achievement. For my own part, I have never found Saint Joan in the least interesting. A deluded girl (not a woman, a girl!) who enjoyed briefly some luck on the battlefield before getting herself roasted courtesy of the clergy, what is there to be excited about? Ask Bernard Shaw and you will get fifty pages of the most brilliant, stimulating, opinionated and provocative prose.

(Before we proceed further, the word “girl” in the previous paragraph needs a special explanation. It is not an insult, as demented pseudo-feminists would complain, nor is it a term of endearment, as I usually use it. It is a statement of fact. It has nothing to do with Joan’s age or virginity. It has everything to do with her inexperience and immaturity.)

Shaw was evidently in love with the Maid. He raves about her as he never did even about Mozart or Wagner. Joan, according to Shaw, was as morally superior to her contemporaries as Socrates to his, as able in military matters as Napoleon, and by no means madder than the celebrated author of The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended (1728). She was “very capable: a born boss”, “a sane and shrewd country girl of extraordinary strength of mind and hardihood of body”, “a genius and a saint, about as completely the opposite of a melodramatic heroine as it is possible for a human being to be”, and so on and so forth. She was the first apostle of Protestantism, Nationalism, Feminism and just about any other –ism you care to invent.

It is not hard to see why Shaw was so smitten with Joan, is it? Two major reasons, besides her character (so far as we know it), can be given also. One was to put the record straight.

Shaw was annoyed that the Maid in literature was mostly portrayed as a melodramatic heroine, except when this provoked an equally conventional and equally unreasonable vilification. I haven’t read Schiller’s Die Jungfrau von Orleans (1801), but if it is anything like his Don Karlos (1787), I can well believe that poor Joan was “drowned in a witch’s caldron of raging romance”. Anatole France was the most prominent member of the sceptical school. Shaw thinks highly of him (“I cannot believe that Anatole France does not know what everybody knows. I wish everybody knew all that he knows.”) and finally vindicates him as somebody who “is not anti-Joan; but he is anti-clerical, anti-mystic, and fundamentally unable to believe that there ever was any such person as the real Joan.” Shakespeare, Voltaire, Mark Twain and Andrew Lang also tried their hands at Joan, but Shaw finds little to admire in them.

The other reason, and the more important one, was that Joan gave Shaw ample opportunity to poke fun at his contemporaries. He could already see that the 20th century wasn’t going to be any better than the 19th (rather the reverse, if anything) and he was disturbed that so little had changed below the surface since the 15th. And he said so bluntly: “I affirm that the nineteenth century, and still more the twentieth, can knock the fifteenth into a cocked hat in point of susceptibility to marvels and saints and prophets and magicians and monsters and fairy tales of all kinds.” This attitude explains a good deal that might be misunderstood by those unfamiliar with Shavian satire.

One of the most striking leitmotifs in this Preface is the praise Shaw lavishes on the Middle Ages and the Catholic Church. You might think those were the most enlightened times and the most humane institution in history. Yes, burning Joan was a mistake. But the stake is rather a painless way to go and, anyway, she “got a far fairer trial from the Church and the Inquisition than any prisoner of her type and in her situation gets nowadays in any official secular court”. She was never tortured. Indeed, she was offered to spend her life in luxurious quarters without anything like “the misery, degradation, and conscious waste and loss of life suffered in our modern prisons”. But the obstinate girl refused! Damn her impudence! So burn she did. Nevertheless, for the Catholic Church, in its infinite mercy, “there is no wrong without a remedy.” It took only quarter of a century to rehabilitate Joan and less than five centuries to canonise her.

The case is ludicrously overstated, to say the least. But that was Shaw’s major working method and he made no secret of it[2]. He certainly makes a strong case that credulity, intolerance and superstition were quite as strong in the 20th century as they were in the 15th. I presume that was the major reason for writing both the preface and the play. One doesn’t have to agree with Shaw’s specific examples to appreciate his general message:

The medieval doctors of divinity who did not pretend to settle how many angels could dance on the point of a needle cut a very poor figure as far as romantic credulity is concerned beside the modern physicists who have settled to the billionth of a millimetre every movement and position in the dance of the electrons. Not for worlds would I question the precise accuracy of these calculations or the existence of electrons (whatever they may be). The fate of Joan is a warning to me against such heresy. But why the men who believe in electrons should regard themselves as less credulous than the men who believed in angels is not apparent to me. If they refuse to believe, with the Rouen assessors of 1431, that Joan was a witch, it is not because that explanation is too marvellous, but because it is not marvellous enough.

When science was mostly theoretical and rather beyond his powers of understanding, Shaw hated it. When it was mostly practical and gave him the opportunity to enjoy cars and cameras, Shaw loved it.

Even at his most misguided and wrong-headed, Shaw remains thought-provoking. At one place in this Preface, for instance, he maintains that a church which doesn’t encourage free-thinkers is doomed in the modern world. While this may be true, it is also true that a church which accepts changes when its dogmas are disproved by science will sooner or later cease to be a church. It will become the exact opposite: a scientific community.

Shaw’s notion that theology and science are not opposites fit well with his own religious ideas (Life Force, Creative Evolution, etc.) and his own, rather warped concept of science as a childish game. But it can be accepted neither by any established church nor by any true scientist. No two things – with the possible exception of living and dead matter – can be more different from one another than science and religion. You can enlighten the church as much as you like. All the same, it will always retain at least the idea of personal and meddlesome God, which is scientifically indefensible. Many scientists may privately be as devout as they like. All the same, professionally they don’t rely on the Bible to support their theories. They rely on things like experiment, observation, calculation, induction, deduction and extrapolation. As the standard scientific joke goes, some people believe in God, others have to show controls.

The problem with a Preface like that is the possibility of making the play something of a let-down. Shaw didn’t avoid this. He wanted to write a tragedy without villains, but he only half-succeeded in this admirable endeavour. Saint Joan is beautifully free of villains. But a tragedy it is not.

Now, a tragedy is more effective with a villain, but it doesn’t really need one. What it does need for sure is a tragic character. Joan isn’t one. And the reason is simple: her tragic flaw is not compelling enough. Shaw kept too close to the history. So his Joan is nothing more than a misguided teenager with some common sense obliterated by a massive God fixation. It’s not even a very effective part. I find it strange, indeed, that it has attracted a whole galaxy of actresses from Sybil Thorndike, Katharine Cornell and Wendy Hiller before WWII to Uta Hagen, Janet Suzman and Judi Dench in more recent times.

There are more interesting characters here than the Maid. Shaw obviously made a concerted effort to present Joan’s judges at her trial (Scene VI) as victims of appalling ideology rather than villains. He succeeded admirably. Pierre Cauchon, the Bishop of Beauvais, John Lemaitre, the Inquisitor, and Martin Ladvenu, a young Dominican, are all portrayed in a surprisingly sympathetic light. Their minds are incurably diseased by Catholic theology. They feel, think and act according to the rigid rules of their Church. They are imprisoned by them. But they are not hypocrites, murderers or sadists. They don’t judge before the trial, resort to torture or let anger cloud their judgment.

It is too much to say that these people like Joan. But they certainly don’t dislike, much less hate, her. They genuinely want to save her soul and her body, but they have no chance of doing that within the bounds of Catholic dogma. This is their tragedy. I wish Shaw had succeeded half as well with Joan as with her executors. There is one touching moment in the end, chillingly set as a counterpoint to the stake business, which deftly humanises the Bishop and the Inquisitor:

The Inquisitor:
One gets used to it. Habit is everything. I am accustomed to the fire: it is soon over. But it is a terrible thing to see a young and innocent creature crushed between these mighty forces, the Church and the Law.
You call her innocent!
The Inquisitor:
Oh, quite innocent. What does she know of the Church and the Law? She did not understand a word we were saying. It is the ignorant who suffer. Come, or we shall be late for the end.
I shall not be sorry if we are: I am not so accustomed as you.

The Englishmen come off rather worse than the Frenchmen. You can be sure this was deliberate. Shaw lived virtually his whole life in England and considered himself part of the British Empire, but he remained Irish to the end and never missed an opportunity to make fun of the British with a foreigner’s brutality. The Earl of Warwick is by far the nastiest bloke on the stage. He is the only one who frankly admits that Joan’s death is a political necessity, and if the Church fails to burn her, the English would gladly do so. John de Stogumber, chaplain to the Cardinal of Winchester, is a hilarious caricature of British chauvinism (how dare the saints talk to Joan in French and not in English!), but he is also a portrait of that peculiarly obnoxious specimen from the future, the British Empire Builder. One of his major objections to Joan is this:

But this woman denies to England her legitimate conquests, given her by God because of her peculiar fitness to rule over less civilized races for their own good.

It is no coincidence that one of the most powerful scenes (IV) is the only one in which Joan doesn’t appear at all. Nevertheless, indirectly, she controls the action and provides a great deal of food for thought. Joan as the first Protestant, anticipating Luther by almost a century, and the first Nationalist, arguing that every nation should occupy the land God has accorded to it, are tantalising notions.

The scene is a philosophical discussion, or rather a clash of personalities and ideologies, between Cauchon and Warwick that almost belongs to a different play. It is a curious battle of wits between two people who have absolutely nothing in common, yet must work together against a common enemy. Note their agendas. Warwick is afraid that Joan’s influence might eventually lead to greater power of the king at the expense of the aristocracy. This was an exact reversal of the status quo and could not, of course, be allowed. Cauchon’s worries are quite different. He compares Joan to the similarly humble origins of Mahomet. And look where the “Arab camel driver” was only eight centuries later! He is positively prophetic that the rise of nationalism will lead to endless wars and unimaginable destruction, even if he is quite wrong that Catholicism would be any better:

When she threatens to drive the English from the soil of France she is undoubtedly thinking of the whole extent of country in which French is spoken. To her the French-speaking people are what the Holy Scriptures describe as a nation. Call this side of her heresy Nationalism if you will: I can find you no better name for it. I can only tell you that it is essentially anti-Catholic and anti-Christian; for the Catholic Church knows only one realm, and that is the realm of Christ’s kingdom. Divide that kingdom into nations, and you dethrone Christ. Dethrone Christ, and who will stand between our throats and the sword? The world will perish in a welter of war.

Of course, it is unrealistic that Cauchon and Warwick should explain their times at such length and quite unhistorical that they should use words like “Protestant” and “Nationalist”. Shaw was perfectly aware of this “inevitable sacrifice of verisimilitude”. He thought drama could afford it, and for my part he was right. For all of Shaw’s self-professed striving for historical accuracy, he probably made Cauchon, Warwick and even Joan herself a lot more compelling than they were (so far as we know anything about that).

Shaw is not exclusively pro-French and anti-British. Courcelles, the Canon of Paris, is the first crony of Stogumber, and just the same buffoon like him. Both are rebuked by Cauchon and the Inquisitor who remind them that this is not a police court interested in trifles. Heresy, and heresy alone, is the reason for this trial. Courcelles is dismayed that Joan’s most heinous crime (stealing a Bishop’s horse) is not brought against her, but he is powerless to change that. He is also the only one who strongly advises torture, not for any other reason, but because it is “customary” and “the law”. Joan has the last word on this chap, and she is innocent enough to address him directly: “Thou art a rare noodle, Master. Do what was done last time is thy rule, eh?”

Other minor characters are memorable for one thing or another. Two of my favourites include the Archbishop of Rheims and Jean Dunois, the Bastard of Orleans. The former is charmingly cynical on the subject of miracles. A miracle, he says, is something that confirms or strengthens the faith. It may be staged for the purpose by people who know it’s a fake, but that doesn’t mean it is a fraud (something which merely deceives without any relation to the faith). With such subtlety of reasoning, no wonder the Catholic Church has lasted that long.

As for the Bastard, he is the closest Joan ever comes to romance (Scenes III and V). Something rarer and more beautiful develops instead, a real friendship. I wish Shaw had spent more time on this tender and rather affecting relationship. This might have helped to turn Joan into a more human, more relatable creature. But I don’t think it would have been enough to turn her into a tragic heroine. Joan’s strength of character is based on a delusion anyway, and for my part that makes her, at best, a pathetic bungler or, at worst, a suicidal maniac. Even Dunois, of all people, abandons her in the end, and for the very good reason of saving his own skin:

As God is my judge, if she fell into the Loire I would jump in in full armor to fish her out. But if she plays the fool at Compiègne, and gets caught, I must leave her to her doom.

Everybody, British and French, is half-heartedly vindicated in the crowded Epilogue, a lame supernatural conclusion set in 1456, twenty-five years after Joan’s trial and execution, with glimpses all the way to 1920 when she was finally canonised, an event that probably inspired the writing of the play. (The first five scenes are set between February and July 1429, and cover virtually Joan’s whole career.) Shaw defends the Epilogue as necessary to show that Joan’s death was the beginning of her fame. I really don’t see the point of wasting so much space on the obvious. Even people like me, who care nothing about Saint Joan, have some idea who she was and what she did. Besides, Joan’s posthumous fame is predicted in the end by both Ladvenu (“This is not the end of her, but the beginning.”) and even Warwick (“The last of her? Hm! I wonder!” – which is the last line of Scene VI). Were I a director, I would cut nothing from the scenes – and the complete Epilogue.

To conclude, tragedy this is not, and that should be expected. Shaw was not a tragedian. He was a comedian. The best comedies are those on the verge of tragedy, and such are Shaw’s finest plays. This is not one of them. It’s a skilful, entertaining and very readable drama with solid comic overtones and some engaging characters, rather effective in performance I would expect, but not really moving either on the page or the stage. It has but sporadic flashes of “the innermost attainable truth” which according to Shaw is the subject of “high tragedy and high comedy”. It is largely overshadowed by the Preface. Now this is a Shavian tour de force. If only the play had been that good!

[1] On Broadway alone, Saint Joan has enjoyed seven revivals and 530 shows between 1936 and 2018 (plus 195 at the premiere in 1923/24). This makes it ever more successful than Pygmalion (5 revivals, 508 shows, plus 72 at the premiere), to say nothing of Major Barbara (4, 429, unknown at the premiere) or Man and Superman (4, 420, 192). In fact, the only Shavian play with comparable success on Broadway is Candida which was revived the remarkable 13 times between 1905 and 1993. Eleven of them totalled 516 performances, there are no data for the other two. See Internet Broadway Database.
[2] I am not tired of quoting, if only in a footnote, the revealing passage from Chapter VI of Everybody’s Political What’s What? (1944): “It is always necessary to overstate a case startlingly to make people sit up and listen to it, and frighten them into acting on it. I do this myself habitually and deliberately.” ( )
  Waldstein | Apr 1, 2020 |
Like many others have posted. I am not a big fan of reading plays, but this one had me from the start. ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
Saint Joan dates from the mid 1920s and is still performed. It makes good holiday season theater. I listened to the 1966 Caedmon recording starring Irish actress Siobhán McKenna in her signature role. It's pretty good though strange to hear a French peasant girl talking like a wee lassie. Shaw does a good job showing the power she held over powerful men, something the histories struggle to convey. The charisma and conviction are heady stuff. Elizabeth Holmes and Therenoes comes to mind, an anti-Saint dressed as Steve Jobs. Well this is not a difficult play it is entertaining and very well performed by McKenna and there are dozens of other notable Joans to choose from. ( )
1 vote Stbalbach | Nov 18, 2019 |
Images of Falconetti burned into my mind as I read, perhaps music of Messiaen. Fete des belles eaux? This is a very orthodox tale of moral and legal convulsion. Add a dash of divine nationalism and voila.

This Joan was rather quick witted, other representations have as a nascent martyr. Her oppressors, oppressively oafish--while Bluebeard muses of the Divine Rights and the souls of lumpen children (entertaining something ghastly--only Allah knows.

GB Shaw has impressed me this week, not only for the scale of his vision but the complexity of his characters. There is always tenderness and treachery afoot, often in the same character on a single page. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
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Winner of the 2011 Audie? Award for Best Audio Drama Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award SoundCommentary.com's The Best of the Best 2010 ?Joan of Arc, a village girl from the Vosges, was born about 1412?burnt for heresy, witchcraft, and sorcery in 1431?rehabilitated after a fashion in 1456?designated Venerable in 1904?declared Blessed in 1908?and finally canonized in 1920. She is the most notable Warrior-Saint in the Christian calendar, and the queerest fish among the eccentric worthies of the Middle Ages.??George Bernard Shaw With Saint Joan, Shaw reached the height of his fame as a dramatist. Fascinated by the story of Joan of Arc but unhappy with "the whitewash which disfigures her beyond recognition," he presents a realistic Joan at war, not just with British invaders but with realpolitik. This is a masterpiece of the theater of ideas, presented in the most eloquent, vital, human, and moving terms. Blackstone commissioned this production from the award-winning Hollywood Theater of the Ear.

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822.912 — Literature English English drama 1900- 20th Century

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