Saint Joan: Novel Summary: Scene V

The setting is the “ambulatory,” or area behind the altar at the east end of a cathedral, of Rheims Cathedral, shortly after the Dauphin has been crowned King Charles VII. Joan is at prayer. She is interrupted by Dunois, who tells her the crowds outside are calling for her. Joan thanks Dunois for his friendship, and wonders why “all these courtiers and knights and churchmen” hate her. Dunois tells her that no one enjoys or appreciates being bested by those whom they regard as their inferiors. When Joan announces her assumption that the French forces will now press on to recapture Paris, Dunois warns her that she will not be allowed to do so. And, in fact when the newly anointed Charles arrives, with Rais and La Hire, he does recoil at the thought of marching on for Paris. He suggests making a treaty with the Burgundians instead: “[L]et us be content with what we have done.” When Joan protests, the Archbishop de Chartres, who has just entered the scene, warns Joan of her pride: “You forget yourself. You very often forget yourself.” And Dunois, even though he is a friend to Joan, reminds her that his military generalship contributed in no small part to the French successes: “I know exactly how much God did for us through The Maid, and how much He left me to do by my own wits.” He states that Joan is in danger of being captured by her enemies if she continues to press on against numerically superior forces. A price of 16,000 English pounds is on her head, and Dunois knows that no one from the army, the state, or the church will “lift a finger” to help Joan should she be captured. “You stand alone,” the Archbishop tells her. Rather than causing Joan to despair, this statement seems to determine her defiance and her resolve: “Yes. I have always been alone. France is alone; and God is alone; and what is my loneliness before the loneliness of my country and my God?” She marches out to meet the crowds who are calling for her, while her companions express sorrow over what now seems to be her inevitable fate.
As did Scene IV, Scene V illustrates the way in which “commonsense” and realism is turning against Joan. Joan argues that no mystic voices need to make the commonsense case for “striking while the iron is hot” and marching on to Paris. She appeals to the sensible reasons she has provided for all of her actions, even if the promptings came from saints and angels. Dunois and the others do not dispute any of this, but they do insist that commonsense dictates against any one coming to Joans aid should she press too far. Dunois, for example, whom Shaw portrays as Joans strongest and staunchest supporter in the play, makes the cool, level-headed calculation that he will not be able to risk the lives of his men in an effort to rescue Joan, “much as I cherish her as a companion-in-arms.” Joans cause has reached a point at which she would be better off, as she says, going home to her farm. Part of her tragedy, as Shaw reads her story, is that Joan did not recognize her limitations and the limitations of others. He does present her as prideful-and, as the Archbishop admonishes her, alluding to a biblical proverb, “Pride will have a fall.” The falling action of Shaws classical tragedy is clearly taking shape.