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Saint Joan

Saint Joan


by George Bernard Shaw

Saint Joan Scene One Summary

  • Stage directions tell us that it's a lovely spring morning in the castle of Vaucouleurs in the year 1429.
  • On stage we see a sunny room made of stone with a big oak table in the middle.
  • Prowling about this room is, Captain Robert de Baudricourt, a military squire. He's the guy in charge around here.
  • We're told, in the stage directions, that he's handsome, buff, but clueless.
  • Robert makes up for his failings by bullying his servant, a wormy, balding, pathetic Steward.
  • At present, the Captain is fussing at the Steward because there are no eggs.
  • The Steward says it's not his fault that the hens aren't laying; it's an act of God. Anyway, what's he supposed to do about it? It's not like he can lay eggs.
  • Robert is not impressed with his Steward's sense of humor. He proceeds to call his servant every nasty name he can think of.
  • The Captain accuses his servant of stealing the eggs and selling them to other thieves.
  • Robert is sure there's been thievery because there wasn't enough milk the day before.
  • There's a curse on us, says the Steward.
  • His boss doesn't buy it, and tells him to bring him eggs and milk by noon or he'll…well, he doesn't say exactly, but whatever it is it'll be really, really bad and stuff.
  • The Steward tells the Captain that there'll be no more milk or eggs until he sees The Maid.
  • Robert gets even more grumpy. Apparently The Maid has been hanging outside the door for two days. He told his servant to get rid of her, but he hasn't.
  • The Steward says it's because the girl seems so sure of herself. She has a lot of courage and she makes the people around her have courage as well.
  • He suggests that perhaps Robert should try scaring him off himself, since intimidation is what he does best.
  • The Steward says that she's been spending most of her time talking to soldiers and praying.
  • Robert says that any girl spending that much time with soldiers has been doing more than talking. (Insert: suggestive wink.)
  • The Captain jabs his head out the window and bellows for The Maid to come up.
  • His servant tells him the girl wants to be a soldier. She wants him to give her soldier's clothes, armor, and a sword.
  • Joan appears in the doorway.
  • Stage directions tell us that she is a country girl around 17 or 18. The grimacing Robert doesn't seem to scare her one bit.
  • Joan tells the Captain that God has ordered him to give her a horse, armor, and some soldiers so she can go off to see the Dauphin. (No, not like Flipper. Dauphin was the French term for the guy who's heir to the throne.)
  • Robert tells her that she's absolutely nuts.
  • That's what they all say at first, says the girl. God will make you see my side of things. For example, God has already changed your mind about letting me in here.
  • The Captain is losing ground here.
  • Joan tells him that she'll be needing all the stuff she's requesting, because she's supposed to break the siege of Orleans.
  • Robert is flabbergasted.
  • Yes indeed, says Joan. God is sending me to rescue Orleans.
  • She's already convinced three of the Captain's soldiers to go with her, including some guy named Polly.
  • Robert just has to give his seal of approval. It's all arranged.
  • Joan tells him that he will help her and that he'll go to Heaven for it. She's quite sure of this because saints Catherine and Margaret told her so directly. (Hint: Catherine and Margaret are long since dead.)
  • Robert decides he has to talk to Polly about all this.
  • He sends Joan out with the Steward.
  • Polly, Bertrand de Poulengey, comes into the room.
  • The Captain sits him down for a fatherly talk, saying that he knows that Polly is only pretending to want to take Joan to the Dauphin.
  • Robert is sure that Polly just wants to carry her off and have his way with her.
  • This unadvisable, though, says Robert because Joan's family is middle class and might have some connections which could make trouble for them.
  • Poulengey firmly denies that he is anyway interested sexually in Joan.
  • He says there's just something about her that makes him and some of his buddies want to follow her.
  • Robert tells him that he hasn't got any commonsense.
  • Polly says that they're past the point of commonsense. He goes on to tell us just how bad off everything is.
  • Half of their land has been taken over by the English.
  • The Dauphin is trapped like a rat and is afraid to fight. He's supposed to be the heir to the throne, but the Queen has denied that he's even her son.
  • Poulengey is sure that the English will soon take Orleans. There's some guy named the B-----d there, who is trying to drive them away, but his men are low in morale.
  • Basically everything is awful and the only thing that can save them is a miracle.
  • Robert says there aren't any miracles anymore.
  • Polly tells him that Joan is a miracle and backs up his opinion by saying he'll pay for Joan's horse.
  • Robert says that Polly is just as crazy as Joan, but that he'll talk to her again.
  • Joan comes back in and Robert interrogates her a bit.
  • He asks what she meant when she said that St. Catherine and St. Margaret talked to her.
  • She says, I mean exactly what it sounds like I meant: they talk to me.
  • Robert asks her what they're like, but she refuses to go into detail.
  • He tells her it's just in her imagination.
  • She says, of course it is. That's how God sends His messages.
  • The skeptical Captain asks her what exactly God has been telling her to do.
  • Joan replies that she's to raise the siege at Orleans, crown the Dauphin in Rheims Cathedral, and kick the English out of France all together.
  • Robert says sarcastically that she probably thinks getting rid of the English at Orleans will be as easy as chasing cows.
  • Joan tells him that it won't be difficult, because God is on her side. The English are only men. God gave them their own country and they ought to stay there. God also gave them their own language, and it's against His will that they come to France and try to speak theirs.
  • The Captain doesn't see what language has to do with it. All that should matter to a soldier is what his feudal lord tells him to do. (He probably would think so – he's a feudal lord.)
  • Joan says that all that matters is what God tells him to do.
  • God has nothing to do with what we're talking about, replies the Captain. We're worried about practical things, like the fact that the English are good soldiers. They've got a guy called the Black Prince and he's meaner than the Devil.
  • The Maid informs his that she knows all about English soldiers. They invaded her village of Domrémy. Three of them were wounded and left behind. She got to know them and was none too impressed. She was stronger than all three of the "godd---s."
  • Robert tells her that they're called godd---s because they're always calling on God to d--n their own souls to h--l.
  • God will act mercifully toward them says Joan, once they get back to England where they belong.
  • She's knows all about this Black Prince character. According to her, the Devil possessed him as soon as he set foot on French soil. The same thing would happen to her if she tried to invade England.
  • The Captain points out that that's precisely why she won't break the siege at Orleans. The English are all possessed by the Devil, making them much better fighters.
  • Joan says that if French soldiers fight with faith in God, the English won't have a chance.
  • She goes on to say that the main reason the French keep losing is because they're fighting for the wrong reasons. The knights are just trying to get paid. She can inspire them to give their lives for God and country.
  • Robert tells Polly that this might all be bunch of bull, but that the soldiers might buy it. More importantly the Dauphin might believe it, and that guy needs some serious motivation.
  • The Captain finally gives in and lets Joan have everything she wants: armor, horses, soldiers.
  • He "orders" her to go with Polly and his buddies to see the Dauphin.
  • Poulengey asks how Joan is supposed to get in to see the Dauphin.
  • Robert says, probably about the same way she got in to see me.
  • Joan gets super excited and runs out.
  • The Captain shakes Polly's hand. Though Robert is still skeptical, both men agree that there's something special about Joan.
  • Polly follows after her.
  • The Steward rushes in, incredibly excited. He's carrying a basketful of eggs. The hens are laying like crazy.
  • Robert crosses himself. At this point, he's thoroughly convinced that The Maid has come from God.

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