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.