Saint Joan

This is the first play of G. B. Shaw that I ever read and am thoroughly impressed.

The play is based on the story of Joan of Arc, but it’s not just about the way her life has been depicted (which, by itself is pretty engaging and interesting). The genius lies in the epilogue, where the author has so pressingly conveyed the point that posterity may praise the geniuses and radicals of the past (who in their own time were never appreciated), but no generation has really the guts to accept those in it own time. People can praise a radical of the past, and criticize those who did not appreciate them. But the same people would not accept a revolutionary creature in the present. Hypicricy? Well – yes, and a bit too prevalent in human race.

And the point has been conveyed so beautifully. You just have to read tha epilogue, which is strutured as a meeting of the souls of all those involved in the affair (friends and foes of Joan), after she has been relieved of all the charge of heresy 25 years after her death. There is also a person from future, 1920 to be exact, who brings the message of her being declared a saint. As the scene proceeds, all of them start bowing to Joan and say nice things in her praise. The comes the interesting part. She proposes that since she is a saint now, she can do miracles. Why should not she come to the life again and everyone is shocked. No one wants her back. They give some excuse or the other and move out – the essence of it being “Yes – what happened was wrong, but even if it is done all over again, it would be the same. You are too good for the world.”

The misfortune of human kind indeed. Really good people might indeed be too good for the world. People will be happy without them.

But what I have described above will take you nowhere close to what this play has to convey. Get it and read it. It’s not too long.


2 thoughts on “Saint Joan

  1. If you read about GB Shaw more and more, you’d get to know that his writings are awfully ‘didatic’. He kept shouting that great Art can be nothing else, but even if you spare him the disrespect of the media that he used and corrupted,(exactly like TS Eliot in Poetry) he can not possibly be associated with the word ‘beautiful’. He had no sense of beauty, or subtlety either. All he used was wit and force.

    His plays are known for his epilogues b’coz he penned them with all his force and decorated them with “Shavian”(his contribution to english dictionary). But he lacked an artist’s sensibilities. In the world of Art, he was a crook who opined like Toohey in Fountainhead and used his miraculous wit to over-influence people.

    Still, he remains a force and will always be. Noone can counter that. But the english drama could never come out of the disaster that GB Shaw was. As against Shakespeare who himself didn’t have artistic sensibilities but enriched Art indirectly, Shaw screwed it up with his loud epiloguish opinions stated like an orator instead of a writer. And as Thomas Mann said in his Speech to the Sweedish Academy, the orator and writer stand in opposition.

    Shaw was not an arist, but he was a strong force. He could have been a great critic, had he ever cared for anyone but himself, but he failed at that too.

    Though I have quite contradictory views about the play ‘Pygmalion’,(I think it was a pathetic play; and so was the stupid movie ‘My Fair Lady’) I have completed, I can see the force of GB Shaw travelling into your mind 🙂

    — Akshaya

  2. I would not even attempt to defend my views against yours, because from whatever little I understand of you, we are two different people in every respect including the taste of literature and definition of words.

    And these differences, most likely, are a result of a more basic difference. I do not think there is an absolute definition of beauty; hence it is totally personal concept. While you (as much as I gather from your writings) have a certain concept of beauty (and most other things in the world) and would not accept anything other than that.

    I will grant you (do not take that literally :-D) whatever you think is beautiful or not beautiful, but that does not change the fact that I found this play beautiful!

    If it is a GB Shaw force travelling in my mind – so be it. Though, how I look at it is that in this play, I found just the right expression of a view I personally have held for long.


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