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St. Joan - Essay Example

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Name Instructor Course Date “St. Joan”: The Transformation of John de Stogumber. George Bernard Shaw’s play, “St. Joan,” is based on the life and trial of Joan of Arc. Joan, a simple peasant girl, professes to hear divine voices which instruct her to lead the French army in its war against the occupying English forces…
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St. Joan

The various characters that come into contact with her, from common soldiers to the Dauphin, are often moved to respond to her magnetism and her unshakeable faith. Joan affects people strongly with her charisma and her conviction in the rightness of her way. As Bertrand de Poulengey says in wonder, “There is something about the girl” (Scene I). John de Stogumber is an English chaplain and the representative of the Cardinal of Winchester in the English camp. Although his pride in being an Englishman leads to his hatred for Joan, her martyrdom becomes the epiphany which transforms his character. The ruling trait of the Chaplain’s personality is his pride in being an Englishman and in his aristocratic lineage. In fact, Shaw introduces him in the drama as a “bullnecked English chaplain” (Scene IV). De Stogumber contemptuously dismisses Dunois as being “only a Frenchman” (Scene IV). His pride borders on bigotry: it can even be said that Shaw paints this ‘super patriot’ with more than a touch of the comic. The Chaplain definitely appears as a comic figure when he asserts that the voices heard by Joan “should have spoken in English” (Scene VI). His horror at Englishmen being designated as heretics is also comical. His partisan leanings lead him to accuse Bishop Cauchon of being a traitor. When the Inquisition attempts to lead Joan into repentance, de Stogumber declares, “I know there is not faith in a Frenchman” (Scene VI). He cannot accept the fact that “we English have been defeated” or “bear to see my countrymen defeated by a parcel of foreigners” (Scene IV). This stubborn belief in the courage and invincibility of the English leads him to search for supernatural causes for their defeat. He claims, “No Englishman is ever fairly beaten” (Scene IV). His blind belief in the invincibility of the English is instrumental in fanning the flames of his hatred of Joan. John de Stogumber hates Joan with a passion which is almost incomprehensible. He holds her responsible for the defeat of the English army and firmly believes that such a thing could only have been accomplished with the help of diabolic powers. He is willing to throw away his cassock to take arms and “strangle the accursed witch with my own hands” (Scene IV). His strong language regarding Joan unequivocally demonstrates his hatred of The Maid: she is “an arrant witch” and “that slut” (Scene IV). At the same time, his hatred also extends to her French nationality, and has a touch of class snobbery. He calls her “a witch from lousy Champagne,” and “a drab from the ditches of Lorraine” (Scene IV). Of all her supposed crimes, the one de Stogumber cannot bring himself to forgive is “her great rebellion against England” (Scene IV). Joan represents France, rebellion against the old order, and everything that is anti-English. The Chaplain hates her so much that he declares his willingness to burn her with his own hands. It is de Stogumber who “rushes at her, and helps the soldiers to push her out” to the courtyard and the stake (Scene VI). He is the foremost of her enemies. It is at the stake that John de Stogumber experiences the epiphany which transforms him. The man who shouts “Light your fire, man. To the stake with her,” and rushes to be the first to witness the burning, becomes the man who comes back “ ... Read More
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