Saint Joan

Scene IV of Shaw’s Saint Joan and Joan’s Opposition

“My Lord is the King of Heaven” (633; sc. 1). With these words, Joan of Arc, heroine in George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan, declares her allegiance to God. But with these words, she also implies their corrolary: Joan yields to no other authority. The Maid believes she possesses a personal relationship with God which the Church cannot mediate. Her voices tell her to liberate France and entrust the entirety of French-speaking lands to one king, crowned and anointed before God. Her goal of France for the French, however, threatens the existing feudal system. Joan’s seemingly innocuous plan to oust the English and crown the Dauphin in fact threatens two of the most powerful forces of her time: the Catholic Church and the feudal lords. Representatives of these two forces align and conspire against Joan in Scene IV of Shaw’s play. This scene crystallizes the complex motivations of the Church and its secular counterpart and the threat The Maid poses to both.

Joan acts devout and religious. Although some accuse her of sorcery and witchcraft, these deeds seem trivial to Cauchon, the Church’s representative in scene IV. “All these things that you call witchcraft are capable of a natural explanation,” he chides. “The woman’s miracles would...

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