The Legend of Saint Joan of Arc

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The Legend of Saint Joan of Arc

By | October 1999
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Bernard Shaw's famous play Saint Joan recalls the legend of a young girl who leads her nation to an improbable victory against the English. Joan of Arc has since become a role model for girls and women everywhere as a woman who conquered seemingly indomitable odds in a world of men. But one must wonder: Would the legend of Saint Joan have the magnificence that it does had Joan not been burned when she was? Is the grandeur of the story of Joan of Arc found in her life or in her death?The first step to learning the answer is by understanding the French and English opinions of Joan. When Joan defeats the English at Orleans, she earns the respect of her French peers as a competent general and an extraordinary person. She is not viewed as someone special or revered; she is simply a good, brave soldier. Then their opinions of her begin to change – she is no longer seen as the unstoppable, driving force of the French military. The second time around, they expect her to meet defeat at the hands of the English, with or without God's support. The French even begin to question her religious motivation: "When you first came you respected [the authority of The Church], and would not have dared to speak as you are now speaking. You came clothed with the virtue of humility; and because God blessed your enterprises accordingly, you have stained yourself with the sin of pride" (105-6) exclaims the Archbishop. The Church is the authoritative voice throughout France, as well as throughout England, and Joan's dissension causes the French nobility to lose faith in her and in her abilities. "The voice of God on earth is the voice of the Church Militant; and all the voices that come to you are the echoes of your own wilfulness " (110). Even after her victories against the English and her crowning of the Charles as King of France, Charles distrusts the authenticity of Joan's voices. "Why dont the voices come to me?" he asks. "I am king, not you" (106). The faith he had in Joan...

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