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Written by Timothy Sexton
Joan of Arc
Joan is the daughter of a simple farmer who hardly seemed destined to be known outside the surrounding village, much less become one of the most famous and controversial women in history. Gripped by a fervid imagination and the strength of mind to not allow that imagination to be quashed by expectation and convention, her life would include standing trial before the Spanish Inquisition, leading an army of French soldiers at the siege of Orleans, being canonized by the same church that had previously persecuted her and even showing up as one of Shakespeare’s villains. Not to mention being burned at the stake before her 20th birthday. Little wonder that even when Joan is not actually present on the stage, she remains the central focus of every scene.
The Dauphin (Later King Charles VII of France)
Standing in stark contrast to the dynamic teenage heroine of the play, Charles is physically something of a disappointment. This weakness makes him ripe for manipulation by interested parties, including Joan. Still, what he lacks in strength he makes up for intelligence and is wise enough in the ways of the world to warn Joan that she has already accomplished more than anyone like her ever had. So why push it?
Nobody ever expects the Spanish Inquisition, but once Joan’s propensity for believing that God was speaking directly to her without benefit of mediation through the Vatican, she should certainly have at least asked who it was when the knocking came at her door. The Inquisitor is Brother John Lemaitre and his primary beef with the teenage girl is not that she wears pants or that she wants to be a soldier or any of the various other reasons given for her being executed. In the eyes of the Inquisitor, Joan has committed only one unforgivable and unpardonable sin above all others. She is a practicing Catholic espousing a uniquely Protestant heresy. God simply does not speak directly into the conscience of any individual, much less a teenage girl.
Bishop of Beauvais who also sits in judgment of Joan alongside the Inquisitor. Like Lemaitre, Cauchon is equally convinced that Joan is a heretic, but unlike the Inquisitor he would rather offer Joan a path to forgiveness and atonement which could spare her life and save her soul rather than merely execute her to send a signal to the rest of the world.
Richard de Beauchamp
Earl of Warwick and Joan’s primary opponent on the British side of the war. Though not nearly as concerned about Joan’s heresy against the Church as he pretends, he sees the value of paying lip service to this offense as a means of protecting his real interest: the continuation of the aristocratic entitlement that benefits him.
John de Stogumber
Chaplain to the Cardinal of Winchester and the Earl of Warwick, he rabidly pushes the most outrageous of the charges made against Joan: she is nothing less than a witch that must be burned right off the face of the earth. So deeply does de Stogumber revile Joan for her successes against his country that he admits his real desire is not to burn her, but to strangle the life out of her with his own hands. The sight of Joan’s body going up in flames becomes an expected crucible of purification and atonement not for Joan but John. Overcome with remorse, he ends his days as one of the most vocal opponents of religious intolerance that stimulates extreme violence against others.
The Clerical Gentleman from 1920
An Anglican Priest dressed in contemporary clothing of the 1920s who travels back in time from 1920 to a point in time 25 year after Joan’s execution to inform many of the characters how the course of history actually turns out: with Joan being canonized as a Saint by the Church.
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St. Joan is a play which focuses on some specific aspects of the life of Joan of Arc and her contribution to the efforts of the French to restore the rightful king to the French throne. She was a real historical figure; this play, by George...