By Charles Matthews

Sunday, May 2, 2010

2. "Saint Joan," by George Bernard Shaw, pp. 11-22

"Preface," by George Bernard Shaw, from "JOAN'S GOOD LOOKS" through "...the belittling scepticism that reacts against that romance."
No one ever claimed Joan was either beautiful or ugly: "men were too much afraid of her to fall in love with her," although she "was the defendant in a suit for breach of promise of marriage, and ... conducted her own case and won it."

Shaw likens her to Shakespeare and particularly to the anti-Stratfordian view that "he was an illiterate laborer" despite evidence that "his father was a man of business" and that Shakespeare "knew as much Latin and Greek as most university passmen do: that is, for all practical purposes, none at all." Joan, on the other hand, "was absolutely illiterate" in a time when "many princesses ... might have said the same," but the view of her as "a hired shepherd girl" is incorrect: She was "the young lady of the farm."

"Socrates, Luther, Swedenborg, Blake saw visions just as Saint Francis and Saint Joan did," so we shouldn't hold that against her. "If Newton's imagination had been of the same vividly dramatic kind he might have seen the ghost of Pythagoras walk into the orchard and explain why the apples were falling."
The test of sanity is not the normality of the method but the reasonableness of the discovery. If Newton had been informed by Pythagoras that the moon was made of green cheese, then Newton would have been locked up.... In the same way Joan must be judged a sane woman in spite of her voices because they never gave her any advice that might not have come to her from her mother wit exactly as gravitation came to Newton.... If Joan was mad, all Christendom was mad too.... Luther, when he threw his inkhorn at the devil, was no more mad than any other Augustinian monk: he had a more vivid imagination, and had perhaps eaten and slept less: that was all.
Is the superstition that arose from Joan's religious education any worse than the quackery that arises from science?

"Had Joan not been one of those 'unwomanly women,' she might have been canonized much sooner."

"She was a thorough daughter of the soil in her peasantlike matter-of-factness and doggedness, and her acceptance of great lords and kings and prelates as such without idolatry or snobbery, seeing at a glance how much they were individually good for."

This combination of inept youth and academic ignorance with great natural capacity, push, courage, devotion, originality and oddity, fully accounts for all the facts in Joan's career, and makes her a credible historical and human phenomenon; but it clashes most discordantly both with the idolatrous romance that has grown up around her, and the belittling scepticism that reacts against that romance.

No comments:

Post a Comment