The Palimpsest of Euripides, Shakespeare, and Voltaire

  • John PendergastEmail author
Part of the Bernard Shaw and His Contemporaries book series (BSC)


The first chapter consists of three parts. The first part asserts that Schiller bases his depiction of Joan of Arc in Die Jungfrau von Orleans (“The Maid of Orleans”) on the image of Iphigeneia in Euripides’s plays Iphigeneia Among the Taurians and Iphigeneia in Aulis. Iphigeneia decides to sacrifice herself for her country, a singular act of personal sacrifice corresponding to two of the qualities Schiller ascribes to Joan of Arc: She is sublime, a state attained only by extraordinary suffering, and she exudes sanctity, an extreme individuality of will. The author then explores depictions of Joan of Arc in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, pt I, where she is presented as a wily but doomed sorceress, and Voltaire’s La pucelle d’Orléans, in which she is an ignorant stable girl. The author argues that Schiller’s aim was to supplant these popular images, in the manner of a scribe writing over a used palimpsest, with that of his Joan of Arc, whose sublime sanctity transforms her from victim of fate to warrior-prophet, changing history by sheer force of will.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Foreign LanguagesUnited States Military AcademyWest PointUSA

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