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Saint Joan and Shaw’s Sense of History

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2008, 21(1), pp.85-107
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

최경희 1

1이화여자대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Shaw intended to follow up with the fate of the saints and martyrs to the present through dramatizing the history of Joan of Arc in Saint Joan. Shaw criticized the melodramatic and romantic interpretations of the precedent dramatists who had dealt with Joan's history. He did not want the audience to regard Joan as a sublime remote figure whose martyrdom fail to be recognized as relevant to the contemporary society. Since Shaw’s concern in writing the history play was with the present, not the past, he tended to interpret the behavior of men of the past from the perspective of the present. This led to the consequences of lack of verisimilitude and anachronism which Shaw used intentionally to reveal the connection between the past and the present, and to present the idea that history remains unchanged. Shaw’s concept of historical progress involved the important role played by heroes which was keeping with the ideas of the 19th century historians such as Carlyle, Nietzsche, and Hegel who saw the individual as the motor force of historical development. Shaw dramatized the conflict between the individual who is trying to perform the Creative Evolution and the society that insists on the status quo. Thus Shaw did his best to make the struggle between Joan and the Church priests as an archetypal Hegelian conflict. In order not to reduce Joan's history to the fight between the innocent victim and the most wicked villains, he made the churchmen strive to save Joan from excommunication and from being burned as a witch. By doing so, he could form Joan’s conflict with the Church as a clash between the two irreconcilable agents of historical forces. The living will of Joan, identified with the “evolutionary appetite,” struggles with the society which adheres to the abstract law. Since it could not accept the mentally superior individual, the society had lost the opportunity for progress. In Saint Joan, Shaw also suggested that modern society still repeats the same folly of the 15th century society by isolating itself from its savior. Thus, Shaw’s vision of history tend to be ironic pessimism. Even though his doctrine of Creative Evolution through world-historical hero is optimistic, he was suspicious of the possibility of a significant change.

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