Saint Joan: Novel Summary: Scene III
The chronology of the play advances by almost two months, to Orleans on April 29, 1429 (the date on which French forces, led by Joan, entered the city). Captain Dunois, the "Bastard of Orleans," is lamenting the fact that the wind has not shifted in his favor when he receives word that Joan approaches. Joan urges that she, Dunois, and the French forces cross the bridge leading into Orleans, but Dunois advises her that matters are not as simple as that and gently chastises her for her impatience. He tells her she is in love with war (just as, in Scene II, de Chartres told her she was in love with religion). He explains that, without a change in the wind, the French rafts carrying heavy artillery with which to attack the English fortifications cannot progress upstream. He says he will take Joan to church that she may pray for a west wind. Almost immediately, Dunois' pageboy sneezes. Miraculously, the wind has changed. Dunois is now convinced that "God has spoken," and he and Joan lead the French into battle.
This brief scene dramatizes the turning point of the battle of Orleans, which lasted from April 29 to May 9, and was, in itself, a turning point in the entire Hundred Years' War. The English had besieged Orleans since October 12 of the previous year. Shaw, who does not dramatize other dramatic moments from Joan's biography in his play-neither Joan's visions, Charles' coronation, nor Joan's burning are themselves shown on stage (see Shaw's comments about dramatic spectacle in the preface)-does choose to depict this key moment in the French campaign. Readers may wish to consider why this scene emerges as the one true "action moment" in this drama that is otherwise mainly occupied by dialogue.
In an essay entitled "On Playing Joan," actress Imogen Stubbs has written humorously of the practical difficulties staging this scene involves: "This [the changing of the wind] requires a banner, a wind machine, and a sense of humour. We had nightmares with that moment. The poor boy whose only line was to leap up and down and shout 'The wind! The wind!-It's CHANGED!' would either have to scream above the sound of a Boeing 707 taking off, or stare at the limp banner and say 'The wind! The wind! I'm sure it's about to change,' rush into the wings screaming 'Point the machine higher you idiots' and then rush back on stage and say 'God has spoken'" (2001 Penguin Classics edition, xv). When staged successfully, this scene could provoke audiences to consider whether, in fact, God has spoken, or whether the shifting wind is-like the drowning of "Foul-Mouthed Frank," discussed in Scene II-another coincidence into which we are free to read what we will, or what we hope to find.