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by George Bernard Shaw
Saint Joan Epilogue Summary
The stage directions inform us that it's a dark and stormy night in June 1456. Charles, who is now King Charles VII, is reading in bed. He's 51. Ladvenu, 25 years older than last we saw him, enters the bedroom unannounced. Startled, the King jumps out of bed. Ladvenu tells the King that Joan's good name has been cleared. Apparently he's been obsessed with setting the record straight ever since her execution. He goes on to say that, unlike Joan's original trial, this recent hearing was full of lies and corruption. However, strangely enough, this time the truth was actually heard. Charles says he doesn't care how Joan's name got cleared, as long people can't criticize him for being crowned by a heretical sorceress. Ladvenu says that he should be thinking of Joan now not himself. There's no use in thinking about her, says the King. She was bigger than all of us. He tells Ladvenu that, if Joan were resurrected today, people would just burn her all over again. The priest doesn't want to hear this. He leaves, saying that he's never hanging out in palaces with kings again. There's a flash of lightning. Charles hears Joan's voice. She appears. He asks if she's a ghost. She's says, nah, you're just dreaming. They settle down for a friendly chat. The King asks her if it hurt to be burnt. Joan replies that she doesn't really remember. Guess what, says Charles, I like battles now. They call me Charles the Victorious. That's swell, Joan tells him. I must've really helped you after all. The King informs her that the people that convicted her have been declared to be corrupt. Joan thinks that her accusers were honest, even if they were foolish. Anyway what good is it? She's still burnt. Cauchon pops up and joins the dream. Joan asks him how he's doing. Pretty badly, the Bishop tells her. They've dug up my dead body, excommunicated it, and thrown it in the sewer. He still argues that he did only what was good, right, and proper. Charles tells them both that it's people like them, with their high minded ideas of goodness, who cause all the problems. They should be more like him: just a humble little King of France. Awesome, says Joan. You're the King of France? I guess it all worked out the way I wanted. Dunois appears. He tells Joan that he kept his word and got rid of all the English. She asks him if he's dead, too. Nope, he says. I'm still alive and sleeping in my own bed right now. It's just my spirit that's hanging out with y'all right now. Joan wants to know if he defeated the English her way – no ransoms, just kill or be killed, for the glory of God. Yep, he tells her. Your way worked the best. Dunois informs her that he wrote a lovely little letter to help get her name cleared. He feels kind of bad about not trying to save her before, but there wasn't a lot he could do with her being in the hands of the Church. Sure, blame everything on the Church, whines Cauchon. A Soldier joins them. For some strange reason he's singing a random little song. He tells them that he's a saint from Hell. It turns out that he's the guy that gave Joan two sticks to use as a cross while she was being burnt. It was the one good thing he ever did in his life. For this act of kindness he gets one day a year where he gets to go free from Hell. He says that hell isn't anywhere near as bad as fighting in the French wars. He adds that hell is full of emperors and popes. A Newcomer arrives. They find out that he used to be the Chaplain de Stogumber. Now he's just a simple preacher at a simple church. He still feels guilty about being mean to Joan. He didn't understand what real cruelty was until he saw her burning. Cauchon asks him why knowing the story of Christ's suffering wasn't enough for him to understand. De Stogumber tells him it's different when it's right in front of you. The Bishop wonders if somebody has to die like Jesus in every generation just to remind people not to be cruel. Joan takes heart in what De Stogumber is saying. She comments that at least her death saved all the people toward whom the former chaplain would've been mean. The Executioner appears. He tells them that, though he destroyed Joan's body, her spirit lives on. Warwick pops up. (Jeez, this dream is getting crowded.) He congratulates Joan on having her name cleared and apologizes for his part in it. No hard feelings, he says. It was just politics. Joan tells him that she's not mad about it. A Gentleman enters. He's dressed in the fashion of the 1920's. They all laugh at his more "modern" clothes. He doesn't have time for their nonsense. The Church has sent him from the future to tell them that Joan has been made a saint. Joan is happy. De Stogumber asks if they can put a statue of her in front of Winchester Cathedral back in England. Apparently, they can, because a vision of the statue appears. The Gentleman tells them that there are so many statues of Joan in France now that they're getting in the way of traffic. Everybody gets on their knees and tells Joan how great she is. She asks them if she ought to rise from the dead and rejoin the living. This freaks everybody out. They all make excuses about why her resurrection would be a bad idea and exit. In the end, she's left alone with the Soldier. He tells her that all these highfalutin' people aren't worth her time anyway. In the end, all that matters, is what you think is right. The clock tolls and the Soldier goes back to Hell. Joan is left alone in a bright white light. She asks God when the world will be ready for His saints.
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