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Saint Joan (Penguin Classics) Paperback – May 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140437916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140437911
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Joan of Arc, born in 1412, was burned at the stake in 1431, canonized by the Catholic Church in 1920, and, like most saints, whitewashed by history. Canonization tends to strip a saint of supposedly un-Christian attributes such as rebelliousness, pride, and intolerance. And Joan, despite having been a stubborn, haughty, naive, even foolish girl, has for much of history been remembered only as a pious martyr. However, George Bernard Shaw's play, Saint Joan, completed in 1925, began the modern rehabilitation of the icon as a fully human, fallible character--not to mention a poster girl for teenage rebellion and feminism. Shaw's Joan, like the real Maid of Orleans, leads the fight to drive the English out of her native France, insists on direct communication with her God instead of submitting to the mediation of Catholic priests, and refuses to dress, speak, or act according to traditional notions of how women were expected to behave. Until the closing scene of Shaw's play, however, neither Joan nor her foes are cast in neatly heroic terms. Both are earnestly pursuing their partial visions of the truth. In the play's famous epilogue, Shaw suggests that even 400 years later, most of us are so limited by our own perspectives that we are unable to tell the difference between a saint and a heretic. "O God that madest this beautiful earth, when will it be ready to receive Thy saints?" Joan asks, preparing for her death. "How long, O Lord, how long?" --Michael Joseph Gross

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up-By George Bernard Shaw. Narrated by Flo Gibson.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The play itself is typical Shaw - bright, smart, very worthwhile.
anonymous
Reading the long preface is a must even though the language is rather old fashioned; it lends a deeper understanding to the nuances of the play.
John
The characters in this tale are amazingly well conceived, the premise is most intriguing, and the dialogue is very witty.
Marie Martin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Jeanette Romee on December 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is George Bernard Shaw's most important work. A successful drama that has enjoyed continuous popularity for nearly eighty years is worth a read. Most audiences find it very satisfying. Shaw has a gift for lucid dialogue that brings a centuries old story to life. This is one of the most approachable of the great English language plays.

Why then does "Saint Joan" fall short of five stars?

Fictional accounts of Joan of Arc's life are numerous and seldom accurate. Shakespeare makes her a witch. Voltaire makes her an idiot. Schiller makes her admirable - and gives her a magical helmet that protects her from harm until she falls in love.

In a rare exception to his usual satirical style, Mark Twain spent months in France researching her life and published a fictional biography. Readers who enjoy accurate historical fiction would do well with Twain's "Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc." Twain considered this - not "Huckleberry Finn" - to be his finest work.

Shaw pays far more attention to accuracy than most fictionalizations. Several lines in the play are Shaw's own translations from her trial transcript. Shaw's long introductory essay aspires to be history as well as drama. Most scholars agree with his assessment of Joan of Arc's socioeconomic background. Shaw acknowledges a few dramatic economies: he combines the historical Jean d'Orleans and Duke Jean d'Alencon into a single character. What causes problems are Shaw's unacknowledged deviations from the factual record.

Shaw argues that Joan of Arc was a forerunner of Protestantism who got a fair trial. Among serious scholars this argument gains no credibility.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
THE DOCTOR'S DILEMMA is one of Shaw's most biting critical commentaries...this time on doctors. Shaw hated doctors, as a result of a botched operation on his foot, so here he portrays them as a group of ignorant, bull-headed windbags. All, that is, except for one doctor, who has actually found a cure for tuberculosis. The "dilemma" in the title is whether to use the cure on a talented young painter who is a moral and ethical sleazebag, or on an upstanding middle-aged physician who is a good soul, albeit a boring and relatively mundane one. All this is complicated by the fact that the doctor is in love with the painter's wife! The biggest problem with the play is that it has lost some of its impetus in the last century. Antibiotics can now cure tuberculosis, and the medical profession is far more restricted in its use of "experimental" treatments than it was then. However, Shaw's wit and invective is still poignant even at the end of the twentieth century. A must-read for Bernard Shaw enthusiasts....
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on February 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
Radical feminism, to which I pledge complete allegiance, has put gender issues at the forefront of historical interest in Joan of Arc, but historiography is scarcely pertinent to the reading of George Bernard Shaw's play 'Saint Joan.' I'm told that this awkward play was a smash hit and held the stage for decades in Britain, but it's hard to imagine how or why. The first problem is not gender but 'genre.' Is it intended to play as a farce, before an audience that will chuckle genteelly at hearing Jehan d'Arc speak with a Yorkshire brogue? Or as a philosophical tragicomedy, preparing the stage of the future for Samuel Becket? The dialogue is half music-hall burlesque and half pompous twaddle. I'd have a hard time declaring which is more juvenile, the humor or the sententious lecturing.

If anyone who reads this review has seen a staged production of the play, I'd be interested in hearing whether it was 'played for laughs' or performed earnestly. Shaw is of course taken quite seriously in the world of anglophone theater, though actual productions of his works are rare in the USA. Shaw was not reticent about assuring "us" of his intelligence, and not particularly chary of condescension, but this play features some of the dumbest jokes and most preposterous dialogue I've ever read. Any audience that wasn't overawed by Shaw's elevated reputation would groan out loud at Joan's flippant folksiness.

There seems to be a "Joan-of-Arc" effect on the minds of writers, which disposes them to bizarre extravagance. I turned to Shaw's 'Saint Joan' as a follow-up to reading Mark Twain's romantic novel/ biography "Joan of Arc.' Both works are based on historical sources, chiefly the trial records, yet neither can be interpreted as 'history' in a modern sense. Shaw was aware of Twain's book, and regarded it skeptically, yet the two works have more in common than not. Both are polemics against humanity's inability to comprehend sainthood.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By MarianaP on December 7, 2003
Format: School & Library Binding
What has most stuck in my mind, many years after having read Shaw's book, is the fact that it's more logical to think of Joan as a protestant saint, instead of Catholic, when one considers how she rejected the Catholic Church's authority and was, naturally, rejected in turn.
He makes a very good point when he says that, right as that Church was to ban her on those grounds, nothing could give it the moral right (or any other right, for that matter) to condemn a woman who disagreed with it on matters of faith. In all fairness, they should have simply excommunicated her and said: "If you think you have a better idea, then you go ahead and create your own Church".
It may be a thoroughly idealistic point of view of course, too democratic for that age (perhaps any age), but nonetheless it strikes me as completely fair.
If you like a club but object to some of its rules, and that club isn't willing to change for your sake, they may have the right to throw you out, just as you may have the right to start a new one on your own - but they shouldn't be given the right to take away your life for having dared to challenge their concepts.
This lesson has stayed with me and I recommend this book for the wisdom it contains.
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