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The Doctor's Dilemma by George Bernard Shaw (2004-09-01)

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  • 1st World Library - Literary Society (1606)
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Review Text

  • By anonymous on December 5, 2009

    "Cauchon: If you dare do what this woman has done - set your country above the holy Catholic Church - you shall go to the fire with her."So speaks a more engaging, complex executioner of the legendary young soldier put forth by Bernard Shaw in "Saint Joan." Even if the Bishop put Joan to death for political reasons he likely believed that her execution was just. The Catholic Church's problems with Joan lingered for nearly 500 years. Her active assertion of nationalism as a holy endeavor intuited by her own judgment undermined the Catholic church's political authority, and yes, presaged the Reformation, even if Joan was not a Protestant (Shaw labels her "anti clerical").And she willingly asserted a non-traditional feminine role (soldiering and politicking), which by its nature required non-traditional feminine behavior and dress. Reviewers who say that Joan wore armor to keep from being raped are half right, since Joan's soldiering included such hazards, like being wounded. But she thrived in it too. In fact, I agree with Shaw that the voices spurring her on were Joan's own subconcious, but that is another debate...Those who are skeptical of Shaw's ideas would do well to consider the year of her Canonization: 1920. It's no accident that a year after the Great War, in which the world's powers successfully mobilized against each other in the name of Nationalism (the churches providing prayers and getting out of the way), Catholicism threw up its hands and recognized the genius of the French teenager. This too as women had been called on in support roles like nurses and ambulance drivers, and were being enfranchised by their European and American nations.The play itself is typical Shaw - bright, smart, very worthwhile. None of the play's acts goes on too long. None is weak, except for Act III on the eve of the battle of Orleans, but Shaw is Shaw and seems embarassed by the warlike bluster. Joan herself, as others have observed, often speaks in lines that are taken directly from the trial transcripts. When she doesn't it's usually to give her a flash of wit that rarely seems contrived. This is Joan for grown-ups. And it is Joan for the 21st century: post-modern, the old sentiments put aside.Also reccomended: Regine Pernoud's books. If you need to hear what a pretty, chaste, tear-provoking, goody goody of a girl Joan was buy Mark Twain (I myself donated that volume to the public library when I was 17).

  • By Thomas R. Morgan on March 15, 2018

    G.B.Shaw at his comic best for his final masterpiece. Joan was burned at the stake, by the Church as a Heretic, and 400 years later declared a Saint by the same Church. Not only an entertaining History lesson, but a brilliant account of the teenage Saint. Shaw's Ironic Irish take on the Trial is priceless. He takes on Christianity with a clear and playful eye. If you liked Pygmalian (My Fair Lady) you will love this play. Very readable.

  • By Guest on April 21, 2017

    This is an excellent play. It does not focus on Joan's death, but on her life, and the aftermath surrounding her death. A thoughtful approach; a well-written drama that Shaw researched well. He is an excellent storyteller.

  • By Kenneth Roman on May 6, 2017

    I was re-introduced to St. Joan by the National Theatre Live broadcast of a modern dress production from London's Donmar Playhouse. Rereading the book after many years reminded me of Shaw's genius. It's a fast, fun, thought-provoking read.

  • By Liam on November 13, 2016

    A must read for those interested in the life of Joan of Arc.

  • By Bill Shakes on October 5, 2017

    Remarkable play. Not only for its worth but relevance. Brilliant and funny!

  • By eclectic collectrix on February 8, 2007

    Audio recordings of plays are usually done with different actors reading the roles as in a radio play. This is the first time I have listened to a play being read by only one reader. It is not at all the same experience, but better than one might expect. The reader uses a neutral American accent for the French characters, but a slightly British one to differentiate the English characters. There was a recording on Caedmon of the play with Siobhan McKenna repeating her famous performance, but it is not available. (Some libraries still have it on vinyl, but that doesn't help me pass the time while commuting.)Shaw's play is intriguing, coming as it did so soon after Joan's canonization and Ireland's war for independence ("France for the French"), but there is no denying that is rather untheatrical, save for the climactic scene. Joan confesses to her supposed sins to save her life, but then withdraws the confession, choosing execution and martydom. I had never realized how much Arthur Miller owed to Shaw; I was reminded of the scene in The Crucible when John Proctor confesses to a lie and then recants, preferring an honorable death. These scenes are both based on historical events, of course, but the resemblance in the way they are dramatized is striking nonetheless. Here's a potential trivia topic: How many plays and movies can you think of that use the device of a false confession followed by an even more dramatic retraction?

  • By Karenfern on August 12, 2015

    The play is brilliant, witty and just wonderful to read. I had a great time, read it twice and loaned it out.

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