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Nevertheless She Persisted: A History of Saint Joan of Arc

George Bernard Shaw’s play Saint Joan premiered in 1923, three years after Saint Joan of Arc was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. The play has allowed audiences all over the world to be taken on the journey of Saint Joan of Arc, a young woman caught between the balance of the Catholic church and the law of the land; a nineteen year old who would change the face of Europe.

Saint Joan of Arc was born to peasant parents in the small French village of Domremy in 1412. By the age of sixteen Joan claimed that Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Catherine of Siena, and Saint Margaret had all appeared to her in visions, conveying the same message that Joan was destined to help her country drive the English out of France and ensure that Charles of Valois was crowned King of France, ultimately ending the 100 Years War that had begun nearly a century prior.

Joan persuaded the Crown Prince Charles of Valois to allow her to lead an army of French soldiers to the city of Orleans to drive off the English. Joan, adorned in men’s armor, was victorious in forcing the British out of Orleans, and she became a French hero and led many more victories on behalf of the French. Following the coronation of King Charles VII in 1429, Joan was captured by Burgundian enemies who were allies of the British and on the hunt to stop French victory. She was convicted of witchcraft, heresy, and dressing like a man. After a year in prison she was found guilty and burned at the stake in May of 1431. Joan of Arc was only nineteen years old.

When the 100 Years War ended, King Charles VII issued an inquiry into Joan’s trial. In 1456, twenty five years after her death, the original verdict was overturned and Joan was declared a martyr. Her name was cleared, her popularity skyrocketed, and she was canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV as the patron Saint of soldiers and France.

In the 600 years since Saint Joan of Arc’s death, she has been the subject of hundreds of movies, plays, books, and works of art. She was dubbed “The Maid of Orleans” as a symbol of female strength, determination, and will power in the face of immense opposition.

Joan is widely celebrated by Christians, feminists, and French Nationalists alike for her success as a military mind and as a symbol of female perseverance. From becoming an inspiration for the the suffragette movement in the United States and United Kingdom to inspiring the Parisian, short, bob hairstyle, the story of Saint Joan of Arc is one that will not soon be forgotten. 

In Bedlam’s rendition of Saint Joan, four actors will play all 24 roles, in repertory with William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This interpretation of this tragic story brings an element of laughter, youth, and energy unlike anything that has been seen before. We hope that you will join us to see Bedlam’s innovative performance of Saint Joan from March 9th-24th, 2018.


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