Study Guide

Saint Joan Versions of Reality

By George Bernard Shaw

Versions of Reality

JOAN: "The blessed saints Catherine and Margaret, […] speak to me every day." (1.72)

This is the first time we hear that Joan has voices in her head.

JOAN: "I hear voices telling me what to do. They come from God."
ROBERT: "They come from your imagination."
JOAN: "Of course. That is how the messages of God come to us." (1.37-1.39)

Joan believes that her own ideas have divine origin. Does that make her crazy or a genius?

JOAN: "I love church; but the English will not yield to prayers: they understand nothing but hard knocks and slashes." (3.61)

Even though Joan has great faith in her divine voices, she still seems to have a firm grasp on the practical side of things.

THE CHAPLAIN: "This woman had her throat pierced by an English arrow, […] It was a death wound; yet she fought all day; […] the bridge […] immediately burst into flames and crumbled." (4.54)

We wonder if the Chaplain's account of Joan's "miracles" might be an exaggerated version of reality.

JOAN: "It is in the bells I hear my voices. […] where they come from a distance through the quiet of the countryside." (5.18)

Could it be that Joan's voices, though inspired by faith, are really products of her own contemplations?

JOAN: "I have to find reasons for you, because you do not believe in my voices. But the voices come first; and I find the reasons after." (5. 20)

Does it really matter where her voices come from as long what they tell her to do makes sense?

JOAN: "But what voices do you need to tell you what the blacksmith can tell you: that you must strike while the iron is hot?" (5.68)

Here again we see that Joan's voices are backed up by her own common sense.

JOAN: "Oh, it is true: it is true: my voices have deceived me. I have been mocked by devils: my faith is broken." (6.196)

This is the only time in the play that we see Joan doubt her version of reality.

JOAN: "I know that your counsel is of the devil, and that mine is of God." (6.233)

This is the ultimate blasphemy that condemns her to death.

CHARLES: "Are you a ghost, Joan?"
JOAN: "Hardly […] I am but a dream that thourt dreaming." (E.28-E.29)

In the epilogue, Shaw introduces a new reality that hasn't yet been used in the play.