Saint Joan By Bernard Shaw Essay, Research Paper
The Importance of Scene One for the development of the play
During the first scene of Saint Joan, George Bernard Shaw presents to us several themes that will be later discussed in the play. Themes as miracles, feudalism, nationalism and even military tactics are mentioned and introduced in this scene, and they will be further developed.
Joan is already winning people over and for so it is in this exact scene that the play starts to develop.
With a humorous tone we are introduced to a situation in the castle of Vaucoulers. Robert de Baudricort is complaining to his steward about the fact that the hens are not laying eggs. We get to know the authority of Robert, who is not an obliging person:
Robert: No eggs! No eggs! Thousand thunders, man, what do you mean by no eggs?
Steward: Sir: it is not my fault. It is the act of God.
Robert: Blasphemy. You tell me there are no eggs; and you blame your Maker for it.
With this, the personality of Joan is reinforced as even Robert being the way he is, Joan is able to convince him to send her to Dauphin. Robert is convinced due to Joan s persistence and her religious arguments: elements of her personality that will appear over and over through the play.
Joan: ( ) it is the will of God that you are to do what He has put into my mind. ( ) God is very merciful; and the blessed saints Catherine and Margaret, who speak to me every day, will intercede for you.
A theme that is discussed through the play is the miracle. In this scene miracle is suggested by the fact that the hens that were not willing to lay eggs, suddenly lay five dozen eggs. The same theme will reappear in scene II through the ideas of the archbishop, and it is exemplified when Joan finds the king among the courtiers.
Archbishop: A miracle, my friend, is an event which creates faith. That is the purpose and nature of miracles. They may seem very wonderful to the people who witness them, and very simple to those who perform them. That does not matter; if they confirm or create faith they are true miracles. ( ) Miracles are not frauds because they are often very simple and innocent contrivances by which the priest fortifies the faith of his flock.
In scene III, miracle is again presented when Joan supposedly changes the direction of the wind, and miracle is again discussed in scene IV when Warwick and his chaplain are holding a conference with Cauchon.
Another theme introduced in the first scene of the play is the feudalism-nationalism and the role of he king and the landlords.
Steward: Oh, sir, you know you are a greater man here than the king himself. ( )
Robert: That story is not good enough for me. Robert de Baudricourt burns witches and hangs thieves.
Throughout the play we have it exemplified when we learn that the king Charles has a weak economical situation and owes money to other courtiers. The nationalism is later discussed in scene IV:
The Nobleman: A Frenchman! Where did you pick up that expression? Are these Burgundians and Bretons and Picards and Gascons beginning to call themselves Frenchmen, just as our fellows are beginning to call themselves Englishmen? They actually talk of France and England as their countries. Theirs, if you please! What is to become of me and you if that way comes into fashion? ( ) men cannot serve two masters. If this can t of serving their country once takes hold of them, goodbye to the authority of their feudal lords, and goodbye to the authority of the Church. That is, goodbye to you and me.
It shows that people at that time could not understand the concept of nation. They were organized in feuds and they obeyed orders from the landlords rather than the king.
Joan also discusses the military tactics saying that the French soldiers are always beaten because they fight for money, and want to save their skin. Later she discusses the military tactics with Dunois:
Dunois: Our men cannot take those forts by a sally across the bridge. They must come by water, and take the English in the rear on this side.
Joan: Then make rafts and put big guns on them; and let your men cross to us.
As I said before, the scene one is humorously presented. This comic mood is due to Robert de Baudricourt attitudes and the steward, who is a comic figure in the way Shaw describes him: a trodden worm, scanty of flesh, scanty of hair, who might be any age from 18 to 55 What is also comic is the way Shaw introduces the theme of miracle at first time. The supposed miracle here is not a serious subject as, for example, the change of the wind.
The comic mood remains in scenes II and III, during the rise of Joan. Although in scene III the mood is getting a little bit more serious as we are exposed to Joan s complex character more deeply. During scenes IV, V and VI, the mood becomes more serious, somber and tense, as these scenes are no longer a successions of Joan s victories, but a tragic judgment and execution of hers. As Shaw wrote in his preface that this play is the romance of her rise, the tragedy of her execution, and the comedy of attempts of posterity to make amends for that execution , we can say that the moods are correspondent to these three genres inside his play.
It is clearly noted that scene one serves as a portrait of the entire play.