Joan La Pucelle Monologue (Act 5, Scene 4)
Today we’re going to take a look at Joan La Purcelles final monologue in the War of the Roses. This is a brilliant speech filled with high stakes, high emotion, and power. Joan is a brilliant character among a sea of characters that make up this group of plays. So let’s take a look…
The play begins not long after Henry V has died. This sets the two houses of York and Lancaster against each other over which house will take the throne. Meanwhile in France, while still at war with England, we meet Joan La Pucelle who is introduced to the Dauphin by the Bastard of Orleans where she tells him that she has been sent by God to raise an army, and promises to defeat the English.
Soon after, Talbot, an English soldier, is released by the French in exchange for England releasing a French Lord. And not long after that the French and English clash in Orleans. Joan and Talbot fight, but she decides to spare his life. And so the French win that battle and Joan is praised by the Dauphin for her skills on the battlefield. But not long after that Talbot launches a surprise attack to take back Orleans and Charles tells Joan that she has betrayed him.
So back in England we’ve got this guy called Richard and this other guy called Somerset arguing over who has the right to the throne. Richard takes a white rose for the house of York and Somerset takes a red rose for the house of Lancaster. And so the beginnings of a bloody civil war are born.
Meanwhile in France Talbot and Joan face off again but this time the English win, although there are losses on both sides. Not long after Joan persuades Burgundy to come back to fight for the French to strengthen their forces.
Meanwhile Henry has arrived in France for his coronation and is surprised to see the conflict between the houses of York and Lancaster.
Now back to Talbot who has marched to Bordeaux but becomes trapped between the Dauphin’s army and the city walls, but because the two houses are so focused on their infighting no one sends him any backup. Talbot then begs his son not to fight against the French but his son doesn’t listen. The two fight side by side and John sacrifices his life to save his Father. When Talbot finds out that his son has died, he dies too, and Lucy vows to avenge them.
Fast forward to the next battle. Joan summons her demons to help her fight and win this one, and goes to fight, but is captured. They plan to burn her at the stake, and as she is tied up she says…
First, let me tell you whom you have condemn’d:
Not me begotten of a shepherd swain,
But issued from the progeny of kings;
Virtuous and holy; chosen from above,
By inspiration of celestial grace,
To work exceeding miracles on earth.
I never had to do with wicked spirits:
But you, that are polluted with your lusts,
Stain’d with the guiltless blood of innocents,
Corrupt and tainted with a thousand vices,
Because you want the grace that others have,
You judge it straight a thing impossible
To compass wonders but by help of devils.
No, misconceived! Joan of Arc hath been
A virgin from her tender infancy,
Chaste and immaculate in very thought;
Whose maiden blood, thus rigorously effused,
Will cry for vengeance at the gates of heaven.
Begotten: Come from/Conceived by
Effused: Poured out
First let me tell you who you have damned
Not some child of a lowly shepherd
But the heir of kings
Virtuous and holy, chosen by God himself
By the intervention of heavenly grace
To perform miracles on Earth
I am not associated with evil spirits
But you, who are corrupted by your lust,
With innocent blood on your hands
Tainted and corrupted by countless vices
Because you want to be graceful like others
You think it’s impossible to perform miracles
Unless they’re performed by devils
I am not wickedly conceived!
I have been a virgin from birth
Pure and perfect even in my mind
My virgin blood as it pours from me violently
Will cry for vengeance at the gates of heaven.
Notes on Performance
Now as you can see this is an incredibly high stakes monologue. Not to get too method acty here but try to think about how you might react in a similar situation. This is life and death. This is her ‘Hail Mary’ so the stakes are huge.
With that said, always keep in mind that she might change the other characters’ minds. Only the actor knows what’s going to happen. So don’t sell the character, or the audience short by giving away how it’s gonna go. Don’t play the end game. Stay in the moment.
Lastly, find balance in those high stakes. Don’t go overboard. You still need to be seen and heard and understood. So find a balance between stagecraft and raw emotion.
For more Female Shakespeare Monologues
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