St. Joan - George Bernard Shaw (St. Joan in a New Light)

Topics: George Bernard Shaw, Joan of Arc, Human Pages: 3 (927 words) Published: August 30, 2006
Anyone who has read Shaw's St Joan, or has witnessed the play can state with certainty that one of the fundamental objectives of the writer was to remove Joan of Arc from the romantic perception that grown around her. Shaw had a clear and simple vision of showing the world what she was really like. He wanted to shed the illusions people had constructed since her death and lend his audience the opportunity to view Joan from a perspective that had been lost for more than 400 years.

Upon reflection, one realises that although Shaw paints a clear plain picture of Joan for the audience, one of a young woman attributing everyday characteristics, she still turns out to be a true heroic human phenomenon. There is still much debate surrounding Shaw's interpretation and "it may be admitted that his account of the trial is not literally correct." (i) However, the Joan that Shaw shows us easily convinces the audience that she can be a historically accurate depiction of the true Joan of Arc. Shaw persuades the audience by creating a Joan that offers no forged qualities. His description of her in Scene I depicts a young girl that is not beautiful, but rather one ‘with an uncommon face' (p.62). This is the first step that Shaw takes to portray Joan in a new light, one that contradicts the modern Hollywood perception. He also allows Joan to state her own view of herself when she says, ‘I am a poor girl, and so ignorant that I do not know A from B' (p.117). She is an embodiment of naivety and innocence, and to the primarily Christian based audience, she easily overcomes the social requirements of a saint. What separates Joan from society - and makes her truly exceptional - is her incontestable faith.

The Joan that Shaw presents to the audience is a girl "enlightened by her visions and transformed by faith." (ii) She believes that she can communicate directly with God (her voices) – a most revolutionary belief for the time that play is set in. Shaw exploits this trait of...

Bibliography: Purdom, C.B. 1963. A Guide to the Plays of Bernard Shaw. London: The Shenval Press Ltd.
Shaw, George Bernard. 1924. Saint Joan London: Penguin Books Ltd.
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