Unit 12 Research: Saint Joan

My other piece for Saints and Sinners, is a monologue by Saint Joan, written by George Bernard Shaw. I was able to gain a copy of the script which I have read, I can therefore know much more about my character which will be vital in order to continue with the rehearsal process and portray her true character. Through reading the script, I took a lot of notice into her references to God and religion, which I felt was important for research as she is a Saint, therefore, I need to know why. I was able to learn from Shaw’s work that Joan has been listening to the voices of three saints, Michael, Catherine (St. Catherine of Alexandria) and Margaret (St. Margaret of Antioch), believing from them that God left a sword for Joan to then take to battle and fight the English out of France, so the Dauphin (King) of France can reclaim the throne to France.

By looking into her references to God, which annoys characters such as the Dauphin, Charles VII it has helped me realise that while rehearsing this monologue, I need to always have her feelings towards God and empower her strong religious beliefs through the monologue, particularly as this monologue is towards the end as she has been imprisoned.

After reading the play, I continued research into Saint Joan of Arc, which could back up Shaw’s work and was able to discover further information on her life. As I am playing this character, it is important that I know facts about her life, including the time she was born, as this could affect how she is spoken and acts. According to two writers, Malcom G.A Vale and Yvonne Lanhers, Saint Joan of Arc was born in France in 1412 and died in 1431. As mentioned in Shaw’s play, her father is a farmer from Lorraine, also mentioned by the English whilst declaring her a heretic. In relation to the battle which she believes is a message from God to undertake, I was able to gain more information on the battle itself, I knew from the play that Charles VII, the dauphin was involved, but I also discovered more about Charles VI and Henry VI, because Charles VII was not officially crowned King, anyone would be able to challenge for it. I felt that this should contribute to my research as this is the battle which Joan hears voices from the saints to get involved, leading to her imprisonment, her monologue and her death.

From a different source, I was also able to discover from Tejvan Pettinger that from the village she was born, she was surrounded by French and English conflict for much of her childhood, while also suffering from a lack of wealth. Although there is a lot said on her strong views towards God, there could also be the other argument to begin with that she wanted to get rid of the English after the misery she had been put through as a child. This for me, is a weaker argument for portraying my character due to not just her constant mentions about God, but also signs, such as waiting for God to have the wind in a different direction so that they can safely cross to fight the English.

I was also able to get an idea of the timeline of events leading to Joan’s death, which again contains information which I can then use to put into the character while portraying her, while the audience might not know about Joan’s backstory, myself playing the character will. It took Joan two attempts to speak to Charles VII, the first time was in May 1428 at sixteen years old, the second being January 1429. The battle finally got underway for Joan and the French troops on 27th April, finishing the job with the English leaving and returning to Charles on 8th May, apparently refusing to finish the fighting because it was a Sunday, and she would not do that on a Sunday. The final dates leading up to Joan’s imprisonment lead to the attack on Paris, starting on 8th September, retreating the next day after being wounded and ordered back by Charles. She had to give herself up to the English after their attack on Compiègne on 23rd May 1430, what I found interesting from this piece of information was that Charles, who she helped claim the French throne, did not make an effort to save her. The Bishop of Beauvais took her into his hands for 10,000 francs in January 1931, putting her on trial to be a heretic, which she is accused of largely in the script, burned at the stake that year.

However, although she was burned at the stake, I discovered in page 101 of Shaw’s copy of the script that there were arguments of whether to burn Joan. Cauchon stated “I cannot burn her. The church cannot take life”. He then later proclaims in page 103 when still talking about Joan that “she acts as if she herself were The Church”. Leading up to events in the monologue, it is decided that she must be burned at the stake due to her being a heretic and being influenced by the devil, something which is determined in scene four of the play.

The aim for the original battle between the English and the French was for the French to drive the English out of France, so Charles VII can be crowned. After this is successful and Joan speaks about returning to her village, her downfall appears when she mentions taking over Paris, which she goes to do alone before being captured. She is forced to write her confession, being imprisoned for life, which leads up to my monologue. I found that I was able to understand the monologue better after reading events leading up to it, everything from the light of the sky to not being able to ride horses has been taken away from her forever, with links to God also being mentioned at the end, which she does so much throughout the play.

Vale, M.G.A and Lanhers, Y (2016), Saint Joan of Arc. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Joan-of-Arc (Accessed: 13 April 2017)

Pettinger, T (2013) Joan of Arc Biography. Available at: http://www.biographyonline.net/women/joan-of-arc.html (Accessed: 13 April 2017)

Bernard-Shaw, B. (2003) Saint Joan. London: Penguin



One thought on “Unit 12 Research: Saint Joan”

  1. It’s interesting how religion and politics are so intertwined at the time the play is set – and I’m intriguged to note that it’s the religious, rather than the political Joan that you are more interested in playing. I wonder if there was going on in the world at the time when Shaw wrote the play which might have made him dig the story up? It might not affect how you play the character but it would be interesting to find out!
    I’m looking forward to seeing how you decide to play the piece in the context of ‘Saints and Sinners’!


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