Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 791
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc, a farmer’s daughter from the village of Domrémy. Joan’s imagination is so vivid that her inspirations seem to come to her as visions in which the voices of the saints direct her to raise the siege of Orleans and crown the Dauphin at Rheims. By sheer force of personality and a genius for leadership, the seventeen-year-old Joan does these things. Ignorant of the complexities of politics, Joan is unwilling to defer to the experience and advice of ordinary men. She oversteps herself and is tried by the Inquisition for heresy. Her trial is an eminently fair one by the standards of the age, but Joan condemns herself by insisting that the instructions of her “voices” take precedence over the instructions of the Church. Sentenced to be burned and fearing pain, she recants. When she finds that her recantation simply commutes her sentence to perpetual imprisonment, she reaffirms her innocence and is burned. In an epilogue, Joan’s ghost appears and learns that she has been canonized. Her allies and enemies alike bow down and worship her, but when Joan offers to bring herself to life again, they all demur and drift away. Joan wonders when Earth will be ready for God’s saints.
The Dauphin (doh-FA[N]), later Charles VII. Although physically weak and bullied by everyone, he is intelligent and more refined than most nobles of his time. Once he is crowned, Charles tells Joan to be content with what she already has won. He warns her that he cannot protect her if she continues her fight. After Joan is executed, Charles himself becomes a successful warrior.
The Inquisitor, Brother John Lemaître (leh MEHTR), a Dominican monk. A mild, elderly, and highly intelligent man, he believes that Joan’s heresy is the most heinous one of all: the Protestant heresy of believing that God speaks directly to an individual through one’s conscience. Realizing that Joan is innocent of evildoing, he believes she must be sacrificed for the welfare of Christian society.
Peter Cauchon (koh-SHOH[N]), the bishop of Beauvais, the co-judge, with the Inquisitor, at Joan’s trial. An honest believer in the grossness of Joan’s heresy, the bishop wishes to save Joan’s soul and, if possible, her life.
Richard de Beauchamp
Richard de Beauchamp (boh-SHAH), the earl of Warwick, the English commandant. Warwick wants Joan put to death because she represents the new spirit of nationalism that threatens the power of his social class.
John de Stogumber
John de Stogumber (STAH-guhm-buhr), Warwick’s chaplain. A bigoted and fanatical English patriot, he howls for Joan’s death at her trial. He is so horrified by her execution, however, that, half mad, he retires to a small country parish and becomes an exemplary priest.
Dunois, Bastard of Orleans
Dunois, Bastard of Orleans (dew-NWAH), the rugged and pragmatic commander of the French forces. He admires Joan’s military ability, but he abandons her when she ignores his advice.
Brother Martin Ladvenu
Brother Martin Ladvenu (mahr-TA[N] lahd-veh-NEW), a young priest who takes pity on Joan at her trial and tries to persuade her to save herself.
The archbishop of Rheims
The archbishop of Rheims (ram), a member of the Dauphin’s court. The archbishop, a rich and worldly administrator, is struck by Joan’s saintliness. He tries to warn Joan of the dangerousness of her contempt for all authority.
Gilles de Rais
Gilles de Rais (zheel deh ray), a flippant and cynical young courtier who affects a blue beard. He is contemptuous of Joan.
Captain la Hire
Captain la Hire (lah eer), a tough French soldier who becomes fanatically devoted to Joan.
Canon John d’Estivet
Canon John d’Estivet (dehs-tee-VAY), the prosecutor at Joan’s trial, so captious and vindictive that the Inquisitor must repeatedly censure him.
Canon de Courcelles
Canon de Courcelles (kewr-SEHL), a young priest who, with de Stogumber, draws up the indictment against Joan. He is stupid, petty, and contentious.
Robert de Baudricourt
Robert de Baudricourt (boh-dree-KEWR), a loudmouthed but weak-willed French gentleman-at-arms. Against his better judgment, he provides Joan an escort to the Dauphin’s court.
Bertrand de Poulengy
Bertrand de Poulengy (pewl-lehn-ZHEE), a knight under Baudricourt’s command. Convinced of Joan’s holiness, he escorts her to see the Dauphin.
The executioner of Rouen
The executioner of Rouen (rew-AH[N]), who puts Joan to death.
An English soldier
An English soldier, who gives Joan a cross of twigs while she is at the stake. For this action, he is given each year one day’s vacation from Hell.
A gentleman of 1920
A gentleman of 1920, an English priest who, in the epilogue, announces Joan’s elevation to sainthood.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1112
Archbishop of Rheims
A political prelate who bullies the Dauphin and is shrewdly cynical about miracles. He is moved at first by Joan, but later reproaches her for pride, seeing her views as a threat to the Church.
Bluebeard is Gilles de Rais. A frivolous young courtier, sporting a dyed blue beard.
Cauchon, the Bishop of Beauvais, presides over Joan’s trial along with the Inquisitor. Earlier, he discussed Joan’s fate with Warwick, her other major antagonist. Unlike Warwick, however, Cauchon in Shaw’s play (as opposed to the Cauchon of history) is scrupulously fair and merciful, and sincerely wants to save Joan’s soul. However, he is also seriously concerned about the threat posed to the Church by her belief in her private judgment. At the trial, he strives to get Joan to recant and is disappointed when she refuses to declare absolute obedience to the Church.
See John de Stogumber
Called the Dauphin (that is, heir to the throne), but actually he is already king, though not yet crowned. He is a timid young man, reluctant even to try being brave and assertive against the bullies at court, but Joan puts some spirit in him for a while, getting him to support her plans for raising the siege at Orleans and crowning him in the cathedral at Rheims. When she wants to attack Paris, however, he reverts to timidity and will not support her; instead, he is eager to sign a treaty. In the Epilogue, however, he seems stronger again: he is called Charles the Victorious and leads his men into battle. But he remains skeptical of idealists who try to change the world.
The Clerical Gentleman arrives back in 1456 from the year 1920 to announce that Joan has been made a saint.
The prosecutor at Joan’s trial, D’Estivet is defensive about the proceedings, declaring that they are not motivated by hate, and saying that everything has been done to give Joan a chance to escape execution.
Robert de Baudricourt
The local squire where Joan lives; Joan’s father owes allegiance to him. Though blustery, he is a weak man and is easily convinced by Joan to give her the men and horses that she wants.
Richard de Beauchamp
See Earl of Warwick
Courcelles is a priest who serves as an assessor at Joan’s trial. He is earnest and strict in his adherence to the rules and advocates torturing Joan, not so much out of bloodthirstiness as because it is customary.
Bertrand de Poulengey
A dreamy gentleman, vassal to de Baudricourt. A convert to Joan’s cause.
John de Stogumber
Stogumber, the chaplain to the Cardinal of Winchester in England, is Joan’s most vehement antagonist, largely because, like her, he is a nationalist, only on the English rather than the French side. He excitedly demands that she be burned as a witch for her part in the recent defeats suffered by the English and says he would like to strangle her with his own hands. But when he actually sees her burnt, he undergoes a remorseful transformation and becomes a preacher against violence, warning people not to advocate extreme measures whose nature they do not truly understand.
Commander of the French troops at Orléans. A dedicated soldier and wise strategist, known as the Bastard of Orléans, he adopts Joan’s ideas about waging war for a national cause rather than for feudal ransoms. He becomes Joan’s friend, but also becomes resentful of her when she seems to forget that his military leadership played a role in their joint victories.
Earl of Warwick
An English nobleman and one of Joan’s major antagonists. He is much more suave and diplomatic than the English chaplain, de Stogumber, but just as dedicated to having Joan executed. He has none of the scruples expressed by Bishop Cauchon; he will pay lip service to saving Joan’s soul, but he wants to make sure the Church condemns her body to be burned. He sees Joan as a threat to his side in the war and as a more general threat to the power of the feudal aristocracy.
The Executioner reports to Warwick after the execution that Joan’s heart would not burn.
This is John Lemaître, the mild and elderly but firm agent of the Holy Inquisition who presides over Joan’s trial with Cauchon. He is impatient with the assessors who want to bring trivial charges against Joan. He focuses on the heresy charge, and makes a long speech warning of the dangers of heresy.
Known also as the Maid, Joan is the dominant figure in the play. Even when she is offstage, the other characters discuss her, and when she is in the scene, she takes charge: she knows what she wants and at least in the first half of the play is able to achieve it.
Joan is no frail, delicate woman, and has little interest in traditional womanly things; instead, she wants to be a soldier and she has a large political goal: to free her country from the presence of the English. She is also extremely pious and believes she is being directed by saints to carry out God’s will. She is strong-willed, persistent, and inspirational; she is even able to lend courage to the timid Dauphin. Perhaps because she is still not even twenty, she is brashly impatient, even reckless, and does not understand all the ways of the world. She is surprised that her achievements inspire resentment and does not understand why she is condemned as a heretic. She has a touch of genius about her, but she is also a bit naïve.
A captain in the army and a loyal follower of Joan’s. He is as eager as she is for battle.
Lord Chamberlain at the Dauphin’s court and commander of his army. He bullies the Dauphin. He has difficulty reading and is not as shrewd as the Archbishop.
The most compassionate of the assessors at Joan’s trial. He draws up the recantation statement and gets her to sign it in an attempt to save her life.
The soldier shows up in the Epilogue to report that although his generally sinful life has condemned him to hell, he gets a day off each year for having given Joan two sticks as a cross before she was burnt.
De Baudricourt’s steward. He cringes before his master, but is inspired by Joan.
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