Joan of Arc
- noun a shark. A piece of native Australian rhyming slang. An alternative is Noah’s Ark.
- (Jeanne d'Arc; 1412 - 31) French patriot, who claimed tohave been inspired by voices from heaven to liberate France from theEnglish. She was captured and burnt at the stake as a heretic butcanonized in 1920. Her career has inspired many literary and dramaticworks, including plays by Schiller, Anouilh (The Lark;1943), and George Bernard Shaw. In Shakespeare's HenryVI, Part I, she is portrayed as a coarse and treacherous instrumentof the devil who trades her own soul for victory over the English.
By contrast, Shaw's Saint Joan (1924) presents heras a figure of total integrity who is at once saintly and completelydown to earth. Consequently there was no shortage among Shaw's acquaintancesof ladies claiming to be the author's model for the role. The creditgoes, however, to Mary Hankinson (a suffragette and member of theFabian Society), in whose copy of the play Shaw wrote: "To MaryHankinson, the only woman I know who does not believe she was themodel of Saint Joan, and also actually the only woman who was."
The true nature of the original Joan of Arc is notoriouslyhard to establish. One 17th-century investigation claimed that shehad been married and that someone else had been burnt at Rouen inher place. The evidence for this theory consisted of documents relatingto a marriage between "Robert des Armoyses and Joan of Arc,otherwise known as the Maid of Orleans" as well as several accountsof the reunion of Joan with her brothers after her supposed death.