4.5 Joan of Arc

(The war fought between England and France from 1337 to 1453 has come to be known as the Hundred Years War. Joan was a peasant girl born in eastern France who led the French army to several victories during this war.

 This play begins at the time when all of northern France and some parts of the south-west were under foreign control. The English controlled some parts and the Burgundians controlled the others. The city of New Orleans, one of the few remaining French cities was held by the English. The year is 1429. Captain Robert de Baudricourt, a military officer is seated at the table. His steward stands facing him).

 Robert : I told you to throw the girl out. You have fifty armed soldiers and dozens of strong servants to carry out my orders. Are they afraid of her ?

Steward : No sir, we are afraid of you, but she puts courage in us. She really doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything. Perhaps you could frighten her, sir.

Robert : (grimly) Perhaps, where is she now?

 Steward : Down in the courtyard, sir.

(Robert goes to the window and asks the soldiers to send the girl up) (The girl enters. She is a well-built, strong country girl of 17 to 18 years. The squire’s glare neither frightens her nor stops her. She speaks confidently.)

Joan : Good morning, captain squire. You are to give me a horse and armour and some soldiers, and send me to the Dauphin.

 Robert : This girl is mad. Why didn’t you tell me so, you blockhead?

Steward : Sir, do not anger her. Give her what she wants.

Robert : I shall send you back to your father with orders to put you under lock and key.

Joan : You think you will, squire. But it won’t happen that way. You said you would not see me. But here I am. Robert : So, you are assuming that I’ll give you what you want.

Joan : Yes, squire. (Continues busily) A horse will cost sixteen francs. It is a big amount of money. But I can save it on the armour. I don’t need beautiful armour made to my measure. I can find a soldier’s armour that will fit me well enough. I shall not want many soldiers. The Dauphin will give me, all I need, to free Orleans.

 Robert : (Shocked) To free Orleans!

Joan : (Simply) Yes, squire. Three men will be enough for you to send with me. Polly and Jack have promised to come with me.

Robert : You mean Monsieur de Poulengey?

Joan : Yes, Squire Jack will come willingly. He is a very kind gentleman, and gives me money to give to the poor. I think John Godsave will come, and Dick the Archer, and their servants, John of Honecourt and Julian. There will be no trouble for you, squire. I have arranged it all. You have only to give the order.

Robert : (To the steward) Is this true about Monsieur de Poulengey ?

Steward : (Eagerly) Yes, sir, and about Monsieur de Metz too. They both want to go with her.

Robert : (Goes to the window, and shouts into the court-yard) Send Monseiur de Poulengey to me, will you ? (He turns to Joan) Get out and wait in the yard.

Joan : (Smiling brightly at him) Right, squire. (She goes out).

Robert : (To the steward) Go with her. Stay within call and keep your eye on her. I shall have her up here again. (The steward retreats hastily. Bertran de Poulengey, a French guard, enters, salutes and stands waiting.)

Robert : She says you, Jack and Dick have offered to go with her. What for ? Do you take her crazy idea of going to the Dauphin seriously? Poulengey : (Slowly) There is something about her. It may be worth trying.

Robert : Oh, come on Polly! You must be out of your mind! Poulengey : (Unmoved) What is wrong with it ? The Dauphin is in Chinon, like a rat in a corner, except that he won’t fight. The English will take Orleans. He’ll not be able to stop them.

 Robert : He beat the English the year before last at Montargis. I was with him. Poulengey : But this time, his men are cowed and now he can’t work miracles. And I tell you that nothing can save our side now but a miracle.

Robert : Miracles are all right, Polly. The only difficulty about them is that they don’t happen nowadays. Poulengey : I used to think so. I’m not so sure now. There is something about her. I think the girl herself is a bit of a miracle. Anyhow, this is our last

chance. Let’s see what she can do.

 Robert : (Wavering) You really think that ? Poulengey : (turning) Is there anything else left for us to think? Let’s take a chance. Her words have put fire into me.

Robert : (Giving up) Whew! You’re as mad as she is.

Poulengey : (Obstinately) We want a few mad people now. See where the sane ones have landed us! Robert : I feel like a fool. Still, if you feel sure… ?

 Poulengey : I feel sure enough to take her to Chinon unless you stop me.

Robert : Do you think I ought to have another talk with her ?

Poulengey : (Going to the window) Yes! Joan, come up. (Joan enters.)

Poulengey : (Gravely) Be seated, Joan.

Robert : What is your name ? Joan : They always called me Jenny, in Lorraine. Here in France, I am Joan. The soldiers call me the Maid.

 Robert : How old are you? Joan : Seventeen, so they tell me. It might be nineteen. I don’t remember. Robert : I suppose you think raising a siege is as easy as chasing a cow out of a meadow. You think soldiering is anybody’s job ?

Joan : I don’t think it can be very difficult if God is on your side.

 Robert : (Grimly) Have you ever seen English soldiers fighting? Have you ever seen them plundering, burning, turning the countryside into a desert ? Have you heard no tales of their prince who is the devil himself, or of the English king’s father ?

Joan : You do not understand, squire. Our soldiers are always beaten because they are fighting only to save their skins and the shortest way to save your skin is to run away. But I will teach them all to fight for France. Then, they will drive the soldiers before them like sheep. You and Polly will live to see the day when there will not be a single English soldier on the soil of France.

Robert : (To Poulengey) This may all be nonsense, Polly. But the troops might just be inspired by it though nothing that we say seems to put any fire into them. Even the Dauphin might believe it. And if she can put some fire into him, she can put it into anybody.

Robert : (Turning to Joan) Now you, listen to me and don’t cut in before I have time to think. Your orders are that you are to go to Chinon under the escort of this gentleman and three of his friends. Joan : (Radiant, clasping her hands) Oh, thank you, squire !

 Poulengey : How is she to get into the royal presence ?

Robert : I don’t know. How did she get into my presence ? I will send her to Chinon and she can say I sent her. Then, let come what may. I can do no more.

Joan : And the dress ? I may have a soldier’s dress, squire ?

 Robert : Take what you please. I wash my hands off it.

Joan : (Wildly excited by her success) Come, Polly. (She dashes out.)

Robert : (Shaking Poulengey’s hand) Goodbye, old man, I am taking a big chance. Few other men would have done it.

But as you say, there is something about her.

Poulengey : Yes, there is something about her. Goodbye.