SAINT JOAN BY SHAW: DR. HARESHWAR ROY




   Shaw is the father of the comedy of ideas. He is a genius. He commands attention by his wit and humour. He is the first British playwright to write intellectual dramas. He takes social, political, economic, religious, philosophical and moral problems as the subject of his play.


   Shaw's Saint Joan is considered to be his best play. It studies religion and intellectual conflict. The problem of genius is its keynote. It shows the conflict between individual judgement and established authority. It means that it presents the fight between Protestantism and the traditional dogma. It records man's attitude towards saints and geniuses.

   To show the above-mentioned things, the outline of the story is needed. Joan is an extra- ordinary girl. She is guided by the voice of god and saints. Thus she achieves miracles. She develops confidence in soldiers and common people. Dauphin's slumber is broken. Due to her actions Orleans is relieved and Charles is crowned. She emphasises on he right of private judgement. She exhorts the kings to look upon themselves as God's representative. At last she is captured and sold to the English. She is brought to trial and burnt as a heretic.


   Joan is a vital genius. The fact is that the people of genius have extra- ordinary gifts and capacities for private judgement. Thus when great souls appear on the earth, they have to face the hatred of man. Their qualities bring them into the disruptive clash with the organised judgements. They are crucified, poisoned, burnt, imprisoned and exiled. Shaw has beautifully conveyed this truth through the life and career of Joan. She is also not an exception. The eternal struggle between individual judgement and established authority has been presented with rare realism.
   Saint Joan is crushed between two mighty forces- the Catholic Church and feudal system. These two forces made her prey of their interest. In this drama Couchon is the representative of the church whereas Warwick is the representative of the feudal system. They fight for the system they represent. In spite of her greatness they kill her. She becomes the first protestant martyr.

   Bishop Couchon is extremely loyal to his rights. He condemns Joan because she has rebelled against the mother church. She chooses to put her conscience against the judgement of the church. Through her action and manner she denies the monopoly of the church. She claims the right of the private judgement. Thus Couchon is against Joan and he allows the secular power to burn her.


   The Earl of Warwick, the representative of feudalism, is also the enemy of Joan. He is angry with her because she is challenging the feudalistic pattern of society. She exhorts the kings to look upon themselves as the representatives of God on the earth. If the kings become powerful, they will not depend on feudal barons for money and men. Thus she tries to eliminate the barons who form the keystones of the feudal order. The activities of Joan are dangerous for the existence of the Earl of Warwick. He wants to preserve the feudalism at the cost of Joan's life. Thus he also becomes the enemy of Joan who is burnt.


   Thus in this play, feudalism and medieval church have been presented as two powerful forces. Joan revolts against these forces. She wants to establish the right of individual judgement. The result is that she crushed between these two forces.

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