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COMPARATIVE 9V9ÎÏI* Volume 38 · No. 4 · Winter 2004-05 Joan ofArc Internationale: Shaw, Brecht, and the Law of Nations Julie Stone Peters Joan of Arc was an illiterate peasant girl, a mystic to whom Saints Margaret, Michael, and Catherine spoke directly, and a cross-dressing warrior whose mission, at the age of seventeen, was the liberation of France from English occupation in 1428 and the crowning ofthe dauphin Charles VII as monarch of a united France. After a number of astounding militarysuccesses in which she recaptured large parts ofFrance from the English, she was taken prisoner,tried as a heretic by an international tribunal (run bythe Rouen ecclesiastical courts but in collusion with the English), and burned at the stake in 1431,officiallyfor heresy and witchcraft , but (as everyone knew) in reality for the political crime of revolt against the English occupation.The Church,having accidentally created a martyr, cleverly decided to make her its martyr, and so Joan ofArc was officially rehabilitated by the Church and King Charles after another international trial in 1456, which annulled the first trial on a number of different grounds: the procedure had been irregular, declared the 355 356Comparative Drama new Court; the judges had been incompetent and partial; there had been no counsel for the defense; it had been improper to place Joan in an English prison (given that she had not been charged with violating secular law); there had been post hoc tinkering with the Articles of Accusation so that "heresy" would conform precisely to statements she had already made about her beliefs; her "confession" had been coerced and hence her "relapse"—in which she had withdrawn everything she had confessed—had been illusory; the sentence had been bizarre; and (as the archbishop ofRheims declared) her trial had been"contaminated with fraud, calumny, wickedness, contradictions, and manifest errors of fact and law. (They also, somewhat mysteriously, declared "the execution, and all [its] consequences" null and void.)1 So Joan was technically rehabilitated in 1456,but her real rehabilitation tookplace over the longue durée,not through formal legal proceedings but through cultural, literary, and (perhaps most often) dramatic representation: for instance, in the fifteenth-century Mystère du Siège d'Orleans, Shakespeare's Henry VI, Voltaire's La Pucelle, Schiller's Die Jungfrau von Orleans.As mythic figure,she could become a leader ofthe religious wars of the seventeenth century, an eighteenth-century revolutionary,a nineteenth-centuryromantic figurehead (in Schiller, for instance, in which she tragically expires, having discovered the pangs of love).2 But the political Joan always dominated. For the late nineteenth century,she had been the champion ofnations bound togetherby"blood and iron,"bythe bonds ofrace (the German race as much as the French), and hence an icon not ofresistance but ofimperialist expansionism.3 In the wake of the Franco-Prussian War, she had served as a paradigm of the slogan France pour les français (France for the French), seen as the antithesis of Dreyfus: the crowds protesting against Dreyfus had cried "A bas lesjuifs . .. Vive Jeanne d'Arc! Vive la France aux Français" (Down with the Jews! ... Long live Joan of Arc! Long live France for the French!).4 But World War I changed her. She was a symbolic heroine of the Great War, representative of the struggle against tyranny, exemplar of courage under the dark fires ofthe trenches. Her suffering seemed to be reclaimed in theAlliedvictories of 1918 at Compiègne (the groundwhere she had been captured in 1430). And it was decided that her entry into official sainthood should mark an end of the War to End AU Wars and Julie Stone Peters357 the beginning ofthe new era. The Church had originally scheduled Joan for canonization in 1931,to celebrate the five-hundred-year anniversary ofher execution. But in 1920—eleven years early—she officially became Saint Joan. It was a year after the League ofNations had been founded at the Paris Peace Conference, the year that decidedly.ended the Russian CivilWar in favor ofthe Bolsheviks, implicitly announcing a victory for International Socialism. In 1920 she was supposed to do something new for an ostensibly reunited and tolerant world. A martyr at...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 355-377
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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