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Saint Joan is considered to be one of George Bernard Shaw's greatest works. The play deals with subject matter pertaining to events after the Death of Joan of Arc. In the play, Shaw avoids many problems identified by critics as prevalent in some of his other writing. Some have criticized Shaw, claiming that he tends to portray unrealistic archetypal characters, rather than well-rounded believable individuals. His plays have also been described as lacking action and being too didactic. In Saint Joan, Shaw reduced the intensity of these previously criticized typically Shavian elements and thus, met with much critical success. However, in my view, the play's epilogue is redundant and unnecessary. It essentially repeats and reinforces the events of the play without enhancing the drama. And serves to add historical facts which are either familiar to the audience or which could have been inserted skillfully into the body of the play for
greater dramatic effect. It seems almost as if Shaw was afraid that his audience would not understand the play - he felt compelled to make his ideas clearer in the epilogue.
The action of the epilogue takes place twenty-five years after Joan of Arc was burned. King Charles has a dream in which many of the characters of the play appear. These characters, including Joan, either explain their behavior that we've seen throughout the play or relate some historical fact that Shaw must have seen as necessary for the audience to be aware of. The first character that appears at Charles' bed is Brother Martin Ladvenu, who in Scene VI participated in the trial leading to Joan’s conviction. During th...
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...e truly divine. By stressing this point so overtly, Shaw is beating the audience over the head, once again undercutting the subtlety of the rest of the play.
Shaw's repetition in the epilogue of the content and themes contained in Saint Joan, combined with the insertion of purely historical facts lacking in dramatic relevance, is a flaw to what is otherwise a brilliant play. Shaw's need to explain his work, as evidenced by his lengthy prefaces to many plays, most likely compelled him to include
the epilogue. However, the explicit explanations contained in the epilogue lessen the power of the action that precedes it. As a result, an audience is likely to come away from the performance easily able to conclude what Shaw's intentions were, rather than coming to the ideas that Shaw wanted to present by reflecting on the events of the play.
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