Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Vaucouleurs castle

*Vaucouleurs castle (voh-kew-lewr). Castle of Robert de Baudricourt in which the play opens. A historical place, the castle stands near the Meuse River, between Lorraine and Champagne, not far from Joan’s home village of Domremy. The castle represents the first stage of Joan’s odyssey to fulfill her Lord’s commands; she must convince Robert to supply her with a horse and an escort to Chinon, where she wants to see the Dauphin, the heir presumptive to the French throne.

The seeming invulnerability of the Vaucouleurs stronghold is indicated by the furnishings of the first-floor room where Robert sits: a “plain strong oak table,” a “stout four-legged stool,” and a wooden chest. His position on a floor above Joan, which allows him to look down upon her in the lower courtyard, indicates his social superiority. A doorway leads to a winding stair to the courtyard, where Joan waits impatiently for an audience with Robert. When Robert’s knight Bertrand de Poulengy enters the castle, he places the stool between the table and the window, just as he acts as an intermediary between Joan and Robert.

Although he is weak-willed, Robert tries to be as imposing as his castle when he finally admits Joan, who easily deflects his arguments with her presumption that her miraculous mission and her logical reasons will enlighten him. This scene represents the triumph of human reason over class snobbery, and identifies Joan as the herald of democracy.


*Chinon (sheeh-NON). Town in Touraine where Joan meets the Dauphin. The curtain that separates the antechamber in which the second scene takes place from the Chinon throne room hints at the curtains that screen the realities of power from ostensible ones. Immature and perhaps illegitimate, the Dauphin is ignored by the real powers in France—his government ministers and the leaders of the Church. To test Joan’s claims that she has been sent by...

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Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

Joan and Her Times
Shaw follows the historical record fairly closely in describing Joan’s career. Just like the Joan in the...

(The entire section is 745 words.)

Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

Saint Joan is set in France in the period 1429– 1431, with an epilogue set in 1456. Four of the scenes are set in...

(The entire section is 893 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

1400s: The Hundred Years’ War, and increases in royal power and economic development, lead to the growth of national feeling and...

(The entire section is 343 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

Read some biographical material on Joan of Arc. In what ways does Shaw’s Joan differ from the Joan of history?

Compare Shaw’s...

(The entire section is 183 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

Shaw himself drafted a screenplay for Saint Joan in the 1930s, but no movie was made of it, owing to pressure from the Catholic...

(The entire section is 133 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

Caesar and Cleopatra (1901), an earlier historical play by Shaw, focuses on the heroism of Julius Caesar.


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Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Bentley, Eric, Bernard Shaw, 1856–1950, New Directions, 1957.

Crompton, Louis, ‘‘A Hagiography...

(The entire section is 372 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Astell, Ann W. “Shaw’s Saint Joan: Judging Joan and Her Judges.” In Joan of Arc and Sacrificial Authorship. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003. A reasoned reading of Saint Joan in the light of Shaw’s Marxism.

Hill, Holly. Playing Joan: Actresses on the Challenge of Shaw’s Saint Joan. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1987. Consists of twenty-six interviews with actresses who have played the role of Joan, sometimes in languages other than English. Partly anecdotal, the collection provides insight into the varied interpretations of...

(The entire section is 318 words.)