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Saint Joan

Saint Joan


by George Bernard Shaw

Saint Joan Scene Four Summary

  • Stage directions inform us that we are in a tent in the English camp.
  • A Nobleman is sitting in a fancy chair and casually reading a Book of Hours (an illustrated medieval prayer book).
  • A Chaplain is busily writing.
  • The Nobleman comments on how lovely books are.
  • He also observes the fact that people actually read them these days, rather than just checking out the pictures.
  • The Chaplain tells him that he's taking all their recent defeats pretty calmly.
  • It turns out that Joan and company kicked some "goddam" butt at Orleans and a bunch of other places.
  • These defeats have made the Chaplain furious. He says he can't stand to see his fellow countrymen continually defeated.
  • The Nobleman asks the Chaplain he thinks of himself as an Englishman, the way that the people fighting for Joan are starting to see themselves as French.
  • It would be bad for both of us, says the Nobleman, if everybody starts thinking this way. He's worried that if the people start identifying themselves with a larger nation rather than their feudal lords, nobles like him and clergyman like the Chaplain will lose all of their power.
  • The Chaplain doesn't care what happens as long as they get to burn Joan.
  • The Nobleman tells him to take it easy. He's got the Bishop of Beauvais coming to set up the whole burning thing.
  • He's also placed a huge price on Joan's head.
  • It's all the fault of the Jews, says the Chaplain, as he complains about having to pay a ransom for Joan.
  • This random flare of anti-Semitism is quelled by the Nobleman, who says that Jews are usually fair in business dealings. In his experience, it's Christians who try to get stuff for free.
  • A Page announces that the Bishop of Beauvais, Monseigneur Cauchon, has arrived.
  • The Nobleman introduces himself as Richard de Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick.
  • The Chaplain says his name is John Boyer Spencer de Stogumber, Bachelor of Theology and Keeper of the Private Seal to His Eminence the Cardinal of Winchester. (We're beginning to get the impression that the Chaplain is a little full of himself.)
  • They sit down at a table and get down to business.
  • Our nobleman, Warwick, tells Cauchon that Charles is about to be crowned at Rheims, and there's nothing they can do about it.
  • The Chaplain butts in, saying it's Joan's witchcraft that's allowed the English to be beaten.
  • Cauchon points out that just because an English army was beaten by Joan's French one doesn't necessarily prove there was witchcraft involved. The French have got the Bastard, Dunois, on their side as well. It's perfectly reasonable to assume that the English were defeated fair and square.
  • But in Orleans, says the angry little Chaplain, Joan got shot with an arrow in her throat and lived. Also, the bridge spontaneously caught on fire, flinging Englishmen into the water. Did the Bastard do that? Sounds like some serious sorcery was going on. (Or maybe the story got blown way out of proportion)
  • Warwick apologizes for the Chaplain's craziness, but points out to Cauchon that Dunois wasn't able to win before Joan showed up. Isn't there some kind witchcraft going on here?
  • Cauchon says he's not totally denying that there's something supernatural going on, but it's not like Joan is out there calling on the power of Satan. She's out there with the names of saints on her banner.
  • Warwick asks if Cauchon is on The Maid's side.
  • He answers that, if he was, he would not be chilling with them right now.
  • Cauchon adds that he's sure that Joan is being manipulated by the Devil.
  • Warwick is happy to hear this.
  • The Bishop goes on for awhile talking about the subtle ways that Satan has of attacking mankind. It's the Church's sacred duty to protect the poor innocent souls in its care.
  • He confirms that Joan is a tool of the Devil.
  • I told you so, says the Chaplain. She's a witch.
  • Cauchon angrily corrects him, saying that Joan is a heretic, not a witch. He says that all of her miracles can easily be explained away. (Basically, he thinks that Joan isn't working any magic spells, but her actions are the work of the Devil.)
  • He says that his first duty it to try and save Joan's soul.
  • Warwick points that the Church has a history of burning souls that can't be saved.
  • Cauchon says that the Church doesn't burn anybody. If someone is considered an unrepentant heretic they are cut off and handed over to the secular arm.
  • Awesome, says Warwick, I'm about as secular as it gets. Just hand her over to me.
  • The Bishop is getting pretty angry. He says that he's sick and tired of the nobility using the Church for their own political needs. Joan's soul is just as worthy as any lord's and he truly believes it is his sacred duty to try and save it.
  • The Chaplain jumps up and calls Cauchon a traitor.
  • Cauchon furiously says the Chaplain is the traitor. He's putting his country before the Church, just like Joan.
  • Warwick intercedes and says there is a miscommunication going on here. In England traitor means not loyal to England while in French it means someone who unfaithful and dishonest.
  • Cauchon buys this explanation and chills out a bit.
  • Warwick apologizes for making light of the whole burning Joan at the stake thing.
  • He says that, being a soldier all his life, he's just gotten used to terrible things.
  • He points out that Cauchon, having seen so many burnings, probably knows what he's talking about.
  • The Bishop admits this and says that it's a terrible duty which he takes very seriously.
  • He justifies it by saying it's for the good of the heretics' souls. Their bodies don't matter. They were going to die sooner or later anyway.
  • The Chaplain pipes in again, but a bit more humbly this time. He asks how they're supposed to convict Joan of heresy if she's all the time praying and giving praise to God.
  • This launches Cauchon into a long tirade. He points out that, by Joan saying that she can talk directly to God, she's cutting the Church out altogether. It's supposed to be the clergy's job to tell people what God thinks.
  • He goes on to point out how Joan is a lot like Mahomet (Muhammad), who almost spread Islam all over Europe.
  • What would happen if everybody thought they could talk directly to God like both Joan and Mahomet?
  • Everything would be chaos if the Church wasn't in control. Cauchon swears that if Joan does not repent her heresy, she will be burnt.
  • Warwick isn't impressed with all this anti-Muslim talk. He's been down to the Holy Land and met lots of Muslims there. He says they're really not so bad. Actually, he thinks they're pretty much the same thing as Christians. There's no need for bigotry.
  • Cauchon gets all offended at being called a bigot.
  • Warwick tells the Bishop that comparing Joan to Mahomet might convince other clergyman, but it's not the most effective argument to convince the nobleman.
  • The rest of the aristocracy is much more concerned with Joan placing Kings on such a high pedestal. The nobles have allowed Kings to exist because it gives society a figurehead. If the people become more loyal to Kings than feudal lords, Warwick and all his buddies will lose their power and influence.
  • Cauchon says that they'll never get anywhere if they keep bickering amongst themselves.
  • The Bishop and the Nobleman give names to Joan's ideologies.
  • Warwick says that if he had to put a name to Joan's practice of talking directly to God, he'd call it "Protestantism."
  • Cauchon calls her strong allegiance to a King "Nationalism."
  • Warwick recognizes that he wants to burn her for Nationalism and that Cauchon wants to burn her for Protestantism.
  • The Chaplain doesn't understand these fancy new words that the other two are talking about.
  • He wants to burn her for all kinds of reasons: she defies England, wears men's clothes, and is in league with Satan.
  • Cauchon reiterates that he will do his best to save her soul.
  • Warwick states that he regrets being so severe, and that he will spare her if he can.
  • The Chaplain says if he could, he'd kill her himself.

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