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Argument Analysis Essay of Saint Joan

By marinaaaat Jan 02, 2012 1129 Words
Argument Analysis Essay of Saint Joan
George Bernard’s play Saint Joan was written about the life of a French woman in the late 1420’s who was on trial for spreading heresy. The Inquisitor presented a case against Joan to the juries of the church court. His argument opened with an appeal to ethos. Throughout the rest of his speech he would keep up this type of appeal, preferring the approach of ethical appeals to that of logic. Due to his lack of logical appeals, he seemed to revert to logical fallacies which had created seemingly dubious pretenses to find Joan guilty. This had weakened his argument immensely. To counteract the fallacies however, his use of figurative language had strengthened his argument enough to be thoroughly convincing. Overall, his argument was strong and well-presented and most likely had the majority convinced.

The Inquisitor had opened his argument with an ethical appeal. He stated “If you had seen what I have seen of heresy, you would not think it a light thing even in its most apparently harmless and lovable and pious origins.” (line 2-5) Within his introduction to his case he had already created a sense of authority and knowledge. His audience understands right away that he has had the experience of dealing with heresy and because of that his lack of tolerance for it is immediately respected. This opening had left his audience in a place where they could easily be swayed to his side because they already trust his authority on the subject due to his experience with it. He reassures his ethical appeal once again by stating “I have seen this again and again.” (line 16- 17) With this short and simple statement he creates credibility by reminding his audience once again that he has dealt with this not only once but multiple times. His audience now knows that his credibility does not need to be questioned because his involvement in cases similar was plenty enough to convince them of his reliability. Subsequent to his second ethical appeal comes a harsher paragraph about heresy. To ease any of the worry that his austerity may have caused the jury, the Inquisitor follows up with another ethical appeal. “If you saw it [heresy] at work as I have seen it, would clamor against the mercy of the Church in dealing with it.” (line 30-32) In this appeal, he once again throws in his last reminder of his authority in this case, along with excusing himself for the severity of his lack of tolerance for heresy. With this strategy, the Inquisitor’s future ruthlessness in getting Joan to be found guilty will not be seen as harsh but instead defensive of the Church. He will not lose any of the credibility he had gained by making his audience aware of his abundance of experience.

The Inquisitor, beforehand, has already been made aware of his lack of evidence. In what I assumed was an attempt to make the absence of evidence acceptable, the Inquisitor did not try to cover it at all, but instead just outright said that there was none. “For I must tell you, gentlemen, that the things said of her by our English friends are supported by no evidence, whilst there is abundant testimony that her excesses have been excesses of religion and charity and not of worldliness and wantonness.” (line 45-50) Instead of covering up for going without a single logical appeal, he had used logical fallacies in its place. Of course, if the jury realizes that he had replaced real appeals with fallacies it would actually bring down his argument, but without that realization, it strengthened it to a point where he was willing to risk it. He began his pairing of invalid arguments with a hasty generalization about woman who do what Joan did. “The woman who quarrels with her clothes, and puts on the dress of a man, is like the man who throws off his fur gown and dresses like John the Baptist.” (line 17-20) The Inquisitor attempts to convince the audience that just because Joan had put on the disguise of a man to lead French troops, that she was just like the other women who dress as men. However, the other women who do so do not do it for the same reasons as Joan. Because Joan shares this one attribute as them she is automatically stereotyped to be attempting to be something she is not. The hasty generalization is followed up by faulty causality. The Inquisitor claims “they begin with polygamy, and end by incest” and although not every case of adultery may end with incest, and adultery is most definitely not the cause of incest, he decides to group the two together to make the comparison between heresy and more serious acts against the church seem closer connected. With this comparison, he believes that the jury will believe that the first step of heresy will inevitably lead to the second step of full out rebellion against all things holy.

The Inquisitor used a form of figurative language to benefit his argument. It was an understated form of irony used to take an opposing argument and destroy it, maybe even convert it into a supporting one. “The girl is not one of those whose hard features are the signs of hard hearts, and whose brazen looks and lewd demeanor condemn before they are accused. The devilish pride that had led her into her present peril had left no mark on her countenance.” (line 50-55) The Inquisitor warns them about Joan throughout the whole case. He talks about her as if she is the embodiment of the devil, but he also warns them that this woman that is supposed to be the worst type of bad is actually just a gentle, young, pious girl. It seems as if the most innocent looking one in the room is actually allegedly the guiltiest. Instead of avoiding it and letting Joan get away from what she has done based solely on her harmless look, he embraces the irony in it all which actually ends up working for his side of the case. Instead of assuming innocence based on appearance, the audience will now unconsciously force themselves to think that her appearance is only part of her deceptive, “devilish” nature.

The Inquisitor had set out to present a case against Joan of Arc in the Church Court. Despite his logical fallacies including hasty generalization and faulty causality, he successfully did so. In his arguments, he used excellently timed and well stated appeals to ethos and also used irony for his benefit. Generally, his case could be upheld as a solid argument and could easily sway some opinions against Joan.

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