Schiller’s Johanna

Friedrich Schiller. The virgin of Orleans (1801) drama

By Ann Astell, Purdue University. Professor. History of Christianity. 2003

Table of Contents

Scene design by Heinrich Anton Dähling on Schiller's "Jungfrau von Orleans", Royal National Theater Berlin, 1806

Schiller’s Johanna: Civilization, Art, and the Scapegoat.

In 1801, on the eve of the Napoleonic invasion of Germany, Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) boldly presented Joan of Arc on the stage as a guilty sinner-saint, a scapegoat, whose expulsion and death united fifteenth-century France in the face of the English invader. Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (Uber die Ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen) first appeared as a complete and revised text in 1801, the same year in which Schiller completed The Maid of Orleans (Die Jungfrau von Orleans). In those letters Schiller portrays humanity as being insufficiently prepared for modern democracy—a truth evidenced by the barbaric course of the French Revolution. Schiller saw the revolution (in the words of Walter Hinderer and Daniel O. Dahlstrom) as “a brutal attempt to turn a people’s natural instincts into moral virtue overnight, the fate of a people ‘not yet ripe for civil liberty’ because of what it lacked in ‘human liberty.’”[1] We must, Schiller insists, “continue to regard every attempt at political reform as untimely, and every hope based upon it as chimerical, as long as the split within man is not healed.”[2] Seeing the desired unity within the individual and among people to be an essential property of beauty, Schiller urges the political importance of aesthetic education: “If man is ever to solve that problem of politics in practice he will have to approach it through the problem of the aesthetic, because it is only through beauty that man makes his way to freedom.”[3]

In The Maid of Orleans Schiller faces the “problem of the aesthetic” and models aesthetic freedom by departing as widely as possible from the facts of history. Rather than tell the truth about Joan of Arc, he refashions her story as myth and tragedy, portraying her in classical, rather than Christian, terms as a scapegoat. He substitutes for the persecution text of the medieval trial that condemned her and for the hagiographic text of her rehabilitation a mythic text that first demonizes and then deifies her. Internally divided, Schiller’s Johanna is guilty, not innocent. As such, she makes a fitting, surrogate victim for a divided kingdom, which is restored (albeit temporarily) to unity through its sacrifice and expulsion of her, and through her sacrifice of herself. Johanna’s story thus becomes a vehicle for exploring the relationship between nature and art, art and civilization, guilt and human progress, beauty and death.

Schiller gave The Maid of Orleans the subtitle A Romantic Tragedy (Eine romantische Tragödie)—a generic designation that has long puzzled critics of the play.[4] As early as 1825, however, Thomas Carlyle called attention to Die Jungfrau as a scapegoat play and thus a tragedy in the classical sense of a sacrificial goat-song. In his biography of Schiller, Carlyle relates that Schiller, then a professor of history at Jena, originally sought to tell the truth, “to represent Johanna and the times she lived in, as they actually were.” Relinquishing that task as “too difficult”—in part because of the “rude horror” that “defaced and encumbered the reality” of Joan’s martyrdom—Schiller chose instead to retell her tale according to the primeval, mythic pattern of a sacrificial victim. As a “sacrifice doomed to perish for her country,” Johanna resembled, in Schiller’s view, the Iphigenia of the Greeks.”[5] Carlyle’s allusion to the legendary daughter of Agamemnon, who was offered in sacrifice by her own father as a purchase-price for favorable winds, is a telling one. Schiller had read the Iphigenia in Tauris of his friend, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), in 1780, only a few months before he began writing The Maid of Orleans, and Goethe’s play no doubt inspired Schiller’s conception of Joan of Arc.[6]

The decision to transform Joan’s history into myth seems to have clarified Schiller’s notion of the mimetic relationship between the historian and the poet. As twins engaged in an acquisitive competition over shared subject matter, the writers of history and poetry quarrel with each other in a perennial manner that can only be held in check, Schiller believes, through repeated sacrifice. Not only does Schiller’s heroine enact the on-stage role of a mythic victim, but also Schiller himself acts behind the scenes, as it were, to sacrifice the truth of Joan’s history in favor of its mythic representation.[7]

As Schiller asserts in “On the Art of Tragedy,” “Tragedy has the power, indeed, the obligation of subordinating the historical truth to the laws of literary art and of reworking the given material as the art requires. . . . [P]oetic truth often suffers when historical truth is strictly observed and . . . . poetic truth stands to gain when historical truth is rudely violated” (emphasis added).[8]Writing to Goethe on December 24, 1800, about Die Jungfrau von Orleans, Schiller exults that he has “overcome” the historical facts in an entirely “poetic” and “naïve” way: “Das historische ist überwunden, und . . . die Motive sind alle poetisch und grösstentheils von der naiven Gattung” (emphasis added).[9] Elsewhere, in Aesthetic Education, Schiller affirms, “In a truly successful work of art, the contents should effect nothing, the form everything. . . . Subject matter, . . . however sublime and all-embracing it may be, always has a limiting effect upon the spirit, and it is only from form that true aesthetic freedom can be looked for. Herein, then, resides the real secret of the master in any art: that he can make his form consume his material.”[10]

Civilization began, in Schiller’s view, with humanity’s ability to distinguish between form and substance and to exercise mimesis, the imitative “art of semblance” which derives from this fundamental distinction: “Inasmuch as need of reality and attachment to the actual are merely consequences of some deficiency, then indifference to reality and interest in semblance may be regarded as a genuine enlargement of humanity and a decisive step toward culture.”[11] Emerging from “the slavery of the animal condition,” which responds blindly to instinctual needs and desires, human beings are marked by “delight in semblance, and a propensity to ornamentation and play.”[12] As civilization advances, they increasingly claim “the sovereign human right” to exercise the “art of semblance,” to separate “form from substance,” and to give “autonomy . . . to the former.” [13]

A practical consequence of this freedom to separate form from substance is the poet’s ability to depart from historical reality, to transform its matter in the process of imitating it, and thus to give the world itself new, mythic models and ideals. Schiller looked to the history plays of William Shakespeare as examples of such departures and transformations. In particular, Shakespeare’s King Henry VI, Part I showed Schiller the possibility of seeing Joan of Arc from a dual perspective, as a French saint and an English witch, and of creating fictive doubles for her through an anachronistic sequence of events and pairing of characters. In its imitation of history, Shakespeare’s play reveals history itself to be mimetic in its rivalries, tragic divisions, and cycles of revenge.[14]

In Schiller’s treatment of Joan of Arc, the aesthetic “form” of tragedy as a dramatic, quasi-ritualistic representation of the scapegoat myth completely “consume[s]” the historical matter of Joan’s life and death by fire at the stake, so much so that, as George Bernard Shaw was later to complain, Schiller’s “play . . . is not about Joan at all.”[15] The full significance of Schiller’s depiction and aesthetic use of Joan of Arc as a scapegoat has eluded critics of the play, in part because Schiller’s own extensive writings on tragedy, on the sublime and the pathetic, and on aesthetics give no explicit treatment of the topic of the scapegoat (Sündenbock); in part because Schiller’s work antedates the great psychological and anthropological studies of victimage by Sigmund Freud, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and (most importantly) René Girard. Interpreted in conjunction with the anthropology of his aesthetic essays, however, Schiller’s sacrificial, on-stage use of a virginal scapegoat may be said to anticipate and to confirm many of the insights of these later writers with an uncanny exactitude. Indeed, as a commentary on his aesthetics, Die Jungfrau von Orleans highlights a dark undercurrent in Schiller’s theoretical view that too often goes unnoticed, masked as it is by his Enlightenment narrative of cultural progress.

Freud, Schiller, and the Origins of Civilization

In certain respects Freud’s debt to Schiller is well-known. Linking his theory of libidinal instincts to Schiller, Freud himself confesses in “Civilization and Its Discontents” (1929): “In my utter perplexity at the beginning, I took as my starting point the poet-philosopher Schiller’s aphorism, that hunger and love make the world go round.”[16] Elizabeth M.Wilkinson points out that it was Schiller who, in anticipation of Freud’s view of dreams and of artistic images, first “formulated the poet’s task as ‘making the unconscious conscious’” in a letter to Goethe (March 27, 1801): “Die Poesie, däucht mir, besteht eben darinn, jenes Bewußtlose aussprechen und mittheilen zu können.” [17] Freud’s assertion in Totem and Taboo (1913) and later in “Civilization and Its Discontents” that civilization itself originated in a guilty, primordial sacrifice—the murder of the primal father by the united horde of his sons—may similarly be seen as the development of a scapegoat theory latent in Schiller’s aesthetics and symbolically expressed in Die Jungfrau von Orleans.

Drawing an “analogy between the process of cultural evolution and of individual development,” Freud argues that the place of the murdered father within a society is filled by the communal super-ego, whereby the father is resurrected, as it were, to live on in the form of high, ethical ideals “based on the impression left behind them by great leading personalities, men of outstanding force of mind, or men in whom some one human tendency has developed in unusual strength and purity, often for that reason very disproportionately.” During their lives, Freud observes, very often “such persons are ridiculed by others, ill-used, or even cruelly done to death, just as happened with the primal father, who also rose again to become a deity long after his death by violence.”[18]

Freud famously gives Jesus Christ as an example of such a communal scapegoat, but he may well have had Schiller’s heroine also in mind. Anticipating Freud, Schiller put forward a theory of cultural evolution based on the disproportionate or one-sided development of s single human faculty within a leading individual:

One-sidedness in the exercise of his powers must, it is true, inevitably lead the individual into error; but the species as a whole to truth. Only by concentrating the whole energy of our mind into a single focal point, contracting our whole being into a single power, do we, as it were, lend wings to this individual power and lead it, by artificial means, far beyond the limits that nature seems to have assigned it. [19]

In this remarkable passage, Schiller adumbrates the fate of the scapegoat, who, as an individual, must “err,” must wander as an outcast and exile, but who is also destined for deification through the taking of “wings.” Isolated as a result of a one-sided development of his or her potential, individual persons of genius may have benefited little “from this fragmentation of their being,” Schiller writes, “but there was no other way in which the species as a whole could have progressed.”[20]

Except in a few significant passages to which I return later, Schiller does not dwell in Aesthetic Education on the sacrificial fate of the outstanding individual, whom he describes as suffering “under the curse of this cosmic purpose” of cultural development;[21] instead he speaks of the violent sacrifice of natural wholeness that the one-sidedness of the individual arts as competing specialties necessarily entails, and upon which the process of civilization depends. The “antagonism of faculties and functions is the great instrument of civilization,” in Schiller’s view, but civilization as such remains unachieved as long as “the cultivation of individual powers involves the sacrifice of wholeness. . . . [H]owever much the law of nature tends in that direction, it must be open to us to restore by means of a higher art the totality of our nature that the arts themselves have destroyed.”[22] Civilization itself, which is characterized by “the increase of empirical knowledge” and the “increasingly complex machinery of state,” has “inflicted this wound [of division] upon modern man,” severing “the inner unity of human nature,” as well as the harmony of the community, which is subject to an ever more “rigorous separation of ranks and occupations.” [23]

In Aesthetic Education Schiller metaphorically likens the divisive sins of the modern world to the murder of the father, even as he compares the poet to an avenging Orestes, raised to maturity “under a distant Grecian sky” (“unter fernem griechischen Himmel”): “Let [the artist] return, a stranger to his own century; not, however, to gladden it by his appearance, but rather, terrible like Agamemnon’s son, to cleanse and purify it.”[24] That artistic cleansing or catharsis, Schiller suggests, requires a substitutive victim, a goat-sacrifice who takes the place of the murdered father in a tragic ritual play. Division itself, both within the individual psyche and in the state, must be cast out through the sacrifice of the one for the all.

The divisive one-sidedness of Johanna is represented visually in Die Jungfrau von Orleans by the helmet she wears. When Bertrand first bears the helmet, a gypsy’s offering, with him to Domremy from Vaucouleurs, Thibault calls it an “evil token” of war: “Das böse Zeichen.”[25] Johanna eagerly snatches it from Bernard’s hand, declaring, “The helmet’s mine, and it belongs to me” (Prologue.iii.193): “Gebt mir den Helm!” No sooner has she placed it upon her head than, like one possessed by a spirit, she begins to speak in prophecy about the defeat of the English invaders “through a tender virgin” chosen by God (Prologue.iii.326): “Durch eine zarte Jungfrau.” Astonished at her speech, Raimond attributes her tranformation to the helmet: “It is / The helmet, that inspires her martial soul” (Prologue.iii.328-29): “Es ist / Der Helm, der sie so kriegerisch beseelt.” Later, in soliloquy, Johanna contradicts her father, calling the helmet not an “evil token,” but the “token Heaven . . . has foreordained” for her (Prologue.iv.425): “Ein Zeichen hat der Himmel mir verheißen.”

When Johanna first appears to the French forces, she steps forth from the forest like a divine apparition: “a virgin, helmet on her head, / Like to a martial goddess, fair at once / And fearsome to behold” (I.ix.955-57): “eine Jungfrau, mit behelmtem Haupt / Wie eine Kriegesgöttin, schön zugleich / Und schrecklich anzusehn.” Talbot, too, likens her to a goddess of war, calling her a “terror-goddess” (II.v.1543): “Die Schreckensgöttin.” Later, Agnes Sorel begs her to take off her helmet and breastplate, saying that she is frightened by Johanna’s coldness of heart and martial appearance: “Thou art like the rigid Pallas” (IV.ii.2639): “du der strengen Pallas gleichst.” Driven from the city, Johanna continues to wear the helmet, even though Raimond pleads with her to discard it: “Lay the helmet and armor off. / They mark you out and offer no protection” (V.ii.3102-03): “Legt den Helm ab und die Rüstung, / Sie macht Euch kenntlich und beschützt Euch nicht.” In the last act, when the French come to Johanna’s rescue, Dunois exhorts the troops to courage with an allusion to Pallas Athene: “Now arm yourself! Your honor is suspended! / The crown and palladium expended. / Set all your blood and all your life at stake! / Free must she be before the day is ended! (V.viii.3320-23, added emphasis): “Bewaffne sich! Die Ehre ist verpfändet, / Die Krone, das Palladium entwendet, / Setzt alles Blut! Setzt euer Leben ein! / Frei muß sie sein, noch eh der Tag sich endet!”

A virgin warrior, Johanna mirrors the Queen of Heaven whom she serves. In a vision, the Holy One gives Johanna a banner and a sword, commanding her to go to war on behalf of her people. “Enraged and scolding” (“scheltend”), the Sainted One exhorts a reluctant Johanna to the “obedience . . . / And stern forbearance” (I.x.1101-03) that is a woman’s lot: “Gerhorsam ist des Weibes Pflicht auf Erden, / Das harte Dulden ist ihr schweres Los.” Victory will be hers, she promises, as long as Johanna remains untouched in her heart by “love of men” (Prologue.iv.411): “Männerliebe.” On the battlefield, Johanna kills against her own will, obligated by what she calls an “awful, binding contract” (“der furchtbar bindende Vertrag”) to slaughter anyone who crosses her path and to offer them as victims to the Holy Virgin. Johanna tells Montgomery, who seeks her mercy: “[D]eadly is encounter with the virgin” (III.vii.1600, 1598): “Doch tödlich ists, der Jungfrau zu begegnen.” When Johanna finally breaks her vow to abstain from love, she imagines the War-Queen’s anger: “See how she glares and how she knits her brow” (IV.iii.2736): “Seht, wie sie herblickt und die Stirne faltet.” As Lesley Sharpe remarks, “the de-Christianizing of the Christian context of the play” is so complete that the “Virgin becomes representative of some cruel female goddess, a sort of Amazonian Queen, who demands absolute obedience to an inhuman pattern of behaviour.”[26] Through the vengeful Queen of Heaven, Johanna’s own violence and that of others toward her becomes inextricably associated with what René Girard calls “the sacred.”[27]

The sustained pattern of imagery suggests that the comparison of Johanna to Pallas Athene is not mere, allusive coloring, but rather a controlling idea in Schiller’s tragedy. Indeed, a letter to Unger, his publisher, dated November 28, 1800, indicates that Schiller wished the head of Athena (“eine Minerva”) to appear as an illustration on the title page of the drama.[28] In Aesthetic Education it is Athena to whom Schiller points as an emblem for the dawn of civilization: “Not for nothing does the ancient myth make the goddess of wisdom merge fully armed from the head of Jupiter. For her very first action is a warlike one. Even at birth she has to fight a hard battle with the senses, which are loath to be snatched from their sweet repose.”[29] Saying “no” to the urge of the natural instincts, Athena represents the power of thinking humanity to choose among alternatives and to develop one-sidedly. In its mythic structure, then, the emergence of the goddess from Jupiter’s head, like the stepping forth of a helmeted Johanna from the forest, is, as John D. Simons suggests, “a veiled retelling of man’s first step out of nature” and out of Eden, from wholeness into division.[30]

Johanna and the Naïve and Sentimental Poet

Johanna is, in many ways, a child of nature par excellence. Within the play,she speaks as a sentimental poet, apostrophizing the past, commenting on her distance from the idyllic, pastoral world she has forever left behind, and agonizing over her own self-division. She thus serves as an artistic double for the hidden, naïve poet, who is the writer of her play. The poet’s “heart,” like that of his virginal heroine, is buried, even as the play’s hidden significance as an allegory of art is encoded.

In his representation of Johanna’s story as a portrait of the artist, Schiller gives dramatic expression to a general principle of correspondence, which he articulates in “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry.” There he writes that the “road taken by the modern poets is . . . the same road human beings in general must travel, both as individuals and as a whole. Nature makes a human being one with himself, art separates and divides him; by means of the ideal he returns to unity.”[31] As an outstanding individual, Johanna follows a course of psychological development that makes her life something beautiful, an artistic work that is accomplished through her own striving and which furthers the larger work of civilization in which it participates.

Telling Johanna’s story allows Schiller to reify its status as an art object and at the same time to identify himself with her as agent and artist. The life of Johanna, as Schiller imagines it, bears remarkable correspondences to his own. Johanna looks back on her sheltered childhood in Domremy as paradisiacal, and Schiller too remembered his own boyhood, as Viola Geyersbach observes, “immer als eine glückliche und harmonische Zeit . . . ‘mit dem Paradies und dem Goldenen Zeitalter, mit einer ursprünglichen menschlichen Gleichheit und Freiheit verbunden.’”[32] Like Johanna, whose inspired calling met with her father’s doubt and disapproval, Schiller also experienced a painful, parental testing. His desire to study the humanities and to become a poet evoked the stern opposition of his pious father, who had desired him to become a Protestant clergyman, and of Duke Karl Eugene, in whose Military Academy at Solitude Castle the young Schiller studied from 1773 to 1780.

Like Johanna, a guilty Schiller suffered expulsion for the sake of his art. Destined by the despotic Duke for a medical career in the army, for which he himself had no inclination, Schiller began the clandestine composition of poetry and plays, correspondence with publishers, and secret journeys to Mannheim and Stuttgart. When Schiller’s authorship of the acclaimed, republican play, The Robbers, became known, he was arrested for neglect of his duties as an army surgeon, commanded to devote himself wholly to the ducal military service, and forbidden “all further literary work” by official mandate.[33] Finally the sense of his own vocation as a poet became so great and of his imprisonment so unbearable that Schiller left Solitude Castle at night on September 17, 1782 as a fugitive. In a letter to the Duke, Schiller made a final plea for the blessing of the “Anointed One” upon his literary pursuits, acknowledging that “otherwise he would be the most wretched of men, driven, banished from kindred and home; he must needs wander forth into the world, an outcast!”[34]Schiller was, in fact, to spend eleven years in exile from Würtemberg.

Having suffered much, Schiller was well-aware of the vulnerability of artists as social critics and outsiders. In “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry” he describes the fate of the naïve poet in terms that strikingly recall own experience and comment on Johanna’s fictive expulsion: “In an artificial age poets of this naïve sort are rather out of place. In such an epoch . . . they are possible only by running wild in their age and being protected from its mutilating influence by some benign fortune. They can never emerge from society itself, but outside it such poets still occasionally appear, though more as strange individuals whom people stare at.” [35] Crossing into a divided, fragmented society from the realm of “uncultivated nature,” such poets “offend” their contemporaries through the manifestation of natural wholeness, to which they bear a prophetic witness. For this they pay a price of division within themselves and of mutilation and expulsion by others, because “the critics, the real border patrol of taste, detest these naïve poets for disrupting the boundaries and would rather see them suppressed.”[36]

A liminal creature, Johanna clearly figures the naïve poet’s closeness to nature, but also the sentimental poet’s separation from it. From the opening scenes of the play, Johanna’s relationship to nature appears problematic. Thibault, on the one hand, faults her unnatural coldness to Raimond, her suitor in Domremy, and her slowness in flowering as a woman, wife, and mother. He interprets her attraction to the wilderness and her haunting of the oak tree as a brooding intercourse with paganism and evil spirits. Raimond, on the other hand, sees Johanna’s love as a “noble, tender fruit of Heaven” that, precisely because it is precious, “ripens still and slowly” (Prologue.ii.67-68): “Die Liebe meiner trefflichen Johanna / Ist eine edle zarte Himmelsfrucht, / Und still allmählich reift das Köstliche!” Observing Johanna the shepherdess “on lofty lea,” where she “Amid her herd . . . stands alone, erect” (Prologue.ii.74-75), Raimond finds in her a symbol of eternal things: “She then portends to me a higher something, / And oft me thinks she stems from other ages” (Prologue.ii.78-79): “Da scheint sie mir was Höhres zu bedeuten, / Und dünkt mirs oft, sie stamm aus andern Zeiten.” Answering to Thibault’s charge of pride and sterility, Raimond describes Johanna as pious, humble, and serving. The virginal Johanna is, he says, especially attuned to nature and thus an indirect source of its fecundity: “Your herds and likewise too your crops are thriving” (Prologue.ii.140): “Gedeihen Euch die Herden und die Saaten.”

Raimond’s description of the shepherdess Johanna in harmony with nature recalls Schiller’s discussion of natural objects of beauty in “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry.” Natural objects affect us “with a certain melancholy” (“mit einer gewissen Wehmut”), he writes, because they “are what we were; they are what we should become once more. We were nature like them, and our culture should lead us along the path of reason and freedom back to nature. Thus they depict at once our lost childhood. . . . [and] at the same time they portray our supreme perfection in an ideal sense.”[37] Because nature and childhood represent being itself in an organic wholeness, they are “holy.”[38]

Johanna’s poignant soliloquy, in which she bids adieu to the beloved mountains, meadows, and vales of her youth, draws a sharp contrast between the bloody battlefields to which she is being summoned and the bedewed, grassy fields of the sheep’s pasture. At the same time, however, the speech offers hope for a final, higher integration of the two, because Johanna uses natural metaphors for her work as a battle-leader and civil servant: “There’s another herd that I must treasure / On danger’s fields, that will be wet with gore” (Prologue.iv.397-98): “eine andre Herde muß ich weiden, / Dort auf dem blutgen Felde der Gefahr.” She compares her calling, moreover, to that of two biblical shepherds—Moses and David—whose closeness to nature enabled them to be wise leaders of the people.

Leaving the fields behind her, Johanna enacts an aesthetic withdrawal from the world of nature, a stepping back that places it at a contemplative distance. Thus, in Schiller’s words, nature itself becomes for Johanna, as for the sentimental poet, “something naïve,” because it “contrast[s] with art and put[s] it to shame.”[39] Seeing nature outside of herself, Johanna becomes increasingly differentiated from it; at the same time, a whole world “becomes manifest to [her] because [she] has ceased to be one with it.”[40] Distanced from nature, Johanna also becomes internally divided, even as she hopes by means of the ideal to return to the unity symbolized by nature.

Johanna’s very costume points to the tension within her, for she generally appears on stage “with her banner, wearing helmet and breastplate; otherwise attired as a woman” (stage directions to Act II, scene iv): “mit der Fahne, im Helm und Brustharnisch, sonst aber weiblich gekleidet.”[41] Only in Act III, scene iv, does she appear “in armor but without helmet, . . . wearing a wreath in her hair” (“im Harnisch, aber ohne Helm, und trägt einen Kranz in den Haaren”). Charles notes her change of dress, saying, “Thou comest as a priestess decked” (III.iv.2026): “Du kommst als Priesterin geschmückt, Johanna.” Burgundy, too, observes the contrasts signalled by Johanna’s outward appearance: “How dreadful was the Maiden in the fight, / And how, in peace, so radiant with charm!” (III.iv.2028-29): “Wie schrecklich war die Jungfrau in der Schlacht, / Und wie umstrahlt mit Anmut sie der Friede!”

Schiller highlights the duality within Johanna by pairing her with unlike female doubles of herself: the gentle mistress of the Dauphin, Agnes Sorel, and the heartless queen-mother, Isabeau. Like Sorel, Johanna is beautiful and inspires the worship of chivalrous lovers. Sorel shares Johanna’s strong allegiance to Charles VII. She freely sacrifices her jewels in order to replenish his coffers, she urges him to the defense of Orleans, and she offers to risk her life with Charles on the battlefield: “Come! Come! We’ll share alike both want and danger!” (I.iv.643): “Komm! Komm! Wir teilen Mangel und Gefahr!” To Sorel Charles first applies the prophecy traditionally applied to Joan of Arc: “A woman, so the nun declared, would make / Me victorious over all my enemies” (I.iv.654-55): “Ein Weib, verhieß die Nonne, würde mich / Zum Sieger machen über alle Feinde.” On the day of Charles’ coronation, Johanna herself calls Sorel “holy” and “pure” (“selig”), because Sorel’s heart, unlike Johanna’s, has found in the king a proper object for her affection: “Thou lovest where all love! (IV.ii.2686): “Du liebst, wo alles liebt!” Sorel, loving and beloved, represents exteriorly the natural power that Johanna must suppress and redirect within herself for the sake of her calling.

The ruthless Isabeau stands at a greater distance from Johanna, but she too serves as an obvious double for her. Johanna’s antagonist, Isabeau first discredits her son Charles through her adultery and then physically places the English boy-king, Henry VI, on the throne in the place of Charles, whom Johanna seeks to restore to his rights. Banished by Charles, as Johanna later will be, she, like Johanna among the French troops, goes “Full clad in steel . . . riding through the camp” (Prologue.iii.241: “In Stahl gekleidet durch das Lager reiten”), rousing the English forces and their allies. Indeed, she offers herself to the English explicitly as an altera Johanna, “a substitute for prophetess and virgin” (II.ii.1378): “Statt einer Jungfrau und Prophetin.” She proclaims aloud and seeks to satisfy the lust that Johanna feels, hides, and resists. “Give me this man” (II.ii.1453: “Gebt mir diesen da”), she brazenly demands, pointing to Lionel, the English lord with whom Johanna later falls in love.

The conflict within Johanna between the demands of her calling and the desires of her womanly nature is powerfully dramatized in the scene when Montgomery falls at her feet to plead for mercy: “O, by the gentleness of thy mild, tender sex / I beg of thee! Have mercy on me still a youth” (III.vii.1606-07): “O bei der Milde deines zärtlichen Geschlechts / Fleh ich dich an. Erbarme meiner Jugend dich!” Johanna replies by denying her womanhood and her capacity for pity: “Don’t call me woman! . . . [T]his, my armor, covers up no heart” (III.vii.1608, 1611): “Nenne mich nicht Weib. . . . dieser Panzer deckt kein Herz.” Contrasting the cruel sword in her hand to the “innocent and pious shepherd staff” (III.vii.1657: “den unschuldig frommen Hirtenstab”), Johanna describes herself as having been violently “torn away from [the] fields” of her pastoral home against her own desires (“weggerissen von der heimatlichen Flur”), forced by the “divine voice” (“die Götterstimme”) that impels her to kill and ultimately to be killed, a “victim” (“Opfer”) like her victims (III.vii.1658-1663).

Johanna’s anguished, merciless slaughter of Montgomery and her prophecy of her own death on the battlefield recall the “violent condition” that Schiller associates with the one-sided development of human powers: “any separation and isolation of these powers is a violent condition, and the ideal of recreation is the rejuvenation of our nature as a whole in the wake of one-sided tensions.”[42] Nature itself inspires the quest for this ideal, renewed unity of mind and heart. In Johanna’s case, nature asserts itself when she suddenly falls in love with Lionel and, against her own principle of unconditional slaughter, spares the life of the man whom she was about to kill, as she had earlier slain Montgomery. The spontaneous awakening of Johanna’s natural power to love endows her, as nature endows the sentimental poet, “with a vital urge to restore, from out of [her]self, the unity that abstraction had destroyed within her.”[43]

Schiller’s anthropological aesthetics identifies the self-division caused by abstraction with sin and guilt, but also with cultural progress, so that civilization itself is seen as resting on a series of necessary sins. Johanna speaks in precisely these terms about the guiltiness of her calling away from nature. In her soliloquy at the beginning of Act IV, Johanna regrets having ever exchanged her “pious staff” for a “battle-sword” (IV.i.2582-83): “Frommer Stab! O hätte ich nimmer / Mit dem Schwerte dich vertauscht!” Burdened by a “formidable vocation” (“Diesen furchtbaren Beruf”), she laments her failure in relation both to the pure nature she has abandoned and denied and to her high calling as her “fatherland’s deliveress” (IV.i.2595, 2546): “Ich meines Landes Retterin.” Addressing the Queen of Heaven, Johanna complains: “Guiltless once I drove my lambkins / On the quiet mountain heights. / Thou hast thrust me into living / In the haughty princes’ hall, / Thus to guilt my being giving” (IV.i.2608-12): “Schuldlos trieb ich meine Lämmer / Auf des stillen Berges Höh. / Doch du rissest mich ins Leben, / In den stolzen Fürstensaal, / Mich der Schuld dahin zu geben.” Later, hearing the familiar sounds of her sisters’ voices, Johanna remembers their “paternal home” (“väterliche Flur”) as an Eden from which she has been exiled: “There, where I drove the herds upon our highlands, / There was I happy as in Paradise– / Can I not once again be or become so?” (IV.ix.2898-2990): “Da ich die Herde trieb auf unsern Höhen, / Da war ich glücklich wie im Paradies– / Kann ichs nicht wieder sein, nicht wieder werden!”

Johanna as Scapegoat

Johanna’s achievement of a final, ideal unity that reconciles nature and art, sensuality and reason, depends on personal acts of atonement (at-one-ment) and self-sacrifice. Similarly, the community, which is divided on her account, is restored to peace through the sacrifice of Johanna. It is Schiller’s genius to have discovered in the classical myth of the scapegoat and its dramatic representation in tragedy a means of joining the plots of psychological growth, artistic process, and cultural development, as he understood them.

As the myth of Oedipus and a vast array of anthropological evidence suggest, the original scapegoat was a king, a father, and thus a fitting, sacrificial representative for the community as a whole.[44] In The Maid of Orleans, Schiller traces the institution of kingship back to its sacrificial origins through an initial focus on the French king. At the start of the play, Charles VII has been driven back into a corner of his kingdom—his rightful place on the throne usurped by the English king, Henry VI; his legitimacy denied by his own mother; his cities besieged; his coffers empty; his troops demoralized; his followers deserting him. Adjudging the house of Valois to be guilty of “heinous deeds,” accursed, and pursued by “the furies’ wrath” (I.v.779-80), Charles determines to accept his own expulsion by withdrawing voluntarily across “the Stygian waters of the Loire” (I.v.816): “Das stygsche Wasser der Loire.” As Johanna reveals, Charles has begged God to pour out his wrath upon him alone, taking his life as a sin-offering for his people, if “any . . . grievous guilt, still yet / Left unatoned e’en from [his] father’s time, / Had called this tear-filled conflict into being” (I.x.1026-28): “Wenn eine andre schwere Schuld, noch nicht / Gebüßt, von deiner Väter Zeiten her, / Diesen tränenvollen Krieg herbeigerufen, / Dich zum Opfer anzunehmen für dein Volk.” By a king’s paternal sacrifice of himself, Charles hopes to unify the realm once more. Indeed, Schiller depicts Charles as a new King Solomon, ready to renounce his claim to the throne in order to save the lives of his people: “Shall I, like that unnatural mother, / Let my own child be quartered with the sword?” (I.v.822-23): “Soll ich gleich jener unnatürlichen Mutter / Mein Kind zerteilen lassen mit dem Schwert?”

Having established Charles’ position as a sacrificial scapegoat, ready to suffer expulsion, Schiller then removes him from that role, leaving it open in order that another victim, Johanna, might occupy it in his stead. Dunois vehemently opposes Charles’ decision to withdraw, insisting that no king has the right to sacrifice himself and “give a crown away”; instead, “the folk must sacrifice itself unto its king. / That is the fate and law of all the world” (I.v.844-45): “Für seinem König muß das Volk sich opfern, / Das ist das Schicksal und Gesetz der Welt.”

As a representative of “the folk” and a substitute for the victim-king, Schiller’s Johanna possesses all the classical features of a scapegoat. From the very beginning of the play, she stands out from the crowd as different. Even among her family members and fellow villagers in Domremy, she is an outsider.[45] Her father Thibault complains, “She flees the joyous company of her sisters, / Seeks out the desert mountains” (Prologue.ii.81-82): “Sie flieht der Schwestern fröhliche Gemeinschaft, / Die öden Berge sucht sie auf.” Her reluctance to marry suggests to him “some grave perversion in the ways of nature” (Prologue.ii.62): “eine schwere Irrung der Natur.” She remains silent in the opening two scenes, while her father and Raimond speak in her praise and blame. As Lesley Sharpe notes, “Her silence . . . emphasizes her remoteness.”[46] Later, in the army (as a woman among warriors) and in the court (as a low-born shepherdess among genteel courtiers), she remains marked by her difference, an outsider, whose lack of personal membership in the community enables her to be its focal point at a time of crisis and the means of its reunification. As Girard phrases it, “The community belongs to the victim, but the victim does not belong to the community.”[47]

Prior to the expulsion of Johanna at Rheims, she works with preternatural effectiveness as a peacemaker. Even before she arrives as court, her announced military victory over the English reconciles Dunois with the king: “Lords, embrace! / Let all your grudge and discord vanish now / Since Heaven itself proclaims that it’s for us” (I.ix.933-35): “Umarmt euch, Prinzen! / Läßt allen Groll und Hader jetzo schwinden, / Da sich der Himmel selbst für uns erklärt.” On the battlefield, her “sweet eloquence” (II.x.1742: “süßer Rede”) convinces the Duke of Burgundy to switch his allegiance back from the English to the French and to be reconciled with Charles. Johanna points to her peace-making as a proof of her divine mission: “Is making peace, / Dispelling hate, the work of hell?” (II.x.1778-79): “Ist Frieden stiften, Haß / Versöhnen ein Geschäft der Hölle?” Her climactic mediation occurs when Burgundy, breaking his “awful oath of vengeance” (III.iv.2071: “schrecklich Rachgelübde”), embraces and pardons even Du Chatel, the murderer of his father.

Johanna’s peace-making powers do not, however, merely restore and recreate the community whose existence is endangered through strife; they also threaten to undo the community from within and from without. As the one beloved by all her countrymen, she sparks new division by inspiring love’s rivalry and jealousy. Anticipating an ultimate French victory, Dunois and La Hire, who have been “cordial friends and war-time brothers” (III.i.1811: “Herzenfreunde, Waffenbrüder”), begin to quarrel over Johanna. Dunois pleads with La Hire, “Let not the love of woman rend this [fraternal] bond” (III.i.1814): “Laßt Weiberliebe nicht das Band zertrennen.” Similarly, Charles gently chides Johanna, exclaiming, “Two distinguished wooers, / Alike in martial fame and hero’s virtues! / Wilt thou, who reconciled my foes to me, / My realm united, part my dearest friends?” (III.iv.2174-77): “Zwei treffliche Bewerber / An Heldentugend gleich und Kriegesruhm! / –Willst du, die meine Feinde mir versöhnt, / Mein Reich vereinigt, mir die liebsten Freunde / Entzwein?”

Shortly after the scene in which Charles speaks these words to the Maid, the circle of Johanna’s lovers widens to include Lionel, the English prince whose life Johanna spares on the battlefield, after falling in love with him at first sight. Schiller’s amatory twist of plot has often been ridiculed as historically inaccurate and dramatically contrived. Nonetheless, considered from a mythic point of view, Johanna must be contaminated by the love of the enemy, since it is the mission and fate of the scapegoat to reconcile opposing factions. The more she unites the French among themselves, the closer she comes to reconciling them as a group with their common foe, the English. This, indeed, is the ideal conclusion that must be drawn from Johanna’s speech to Burgundy: “A gracious master throws his portals wide / For all his guests, and no one is excluded; / Free, as the firmament surrounds the world, / So must his grace embrace both friend and foe” (III.iv.2054-57): “Ein gütger Herr tut seine Pforten auf / Für alle Gäste, keinen schließt er aus; / Frei wie das Firmament die Welt umspannt, / So muß die Gnade Freund und Feind umschließen.” Such inclusiveness, however, threatens the existence of the community from without by extending its boundaries beyond the limits that have defined it.

Johanna inspires love, but she is unable to be the spouse of any man without failing against her vow of virginity and dividing the community anew. Thus Johanna’s life, in her own eyes and in those of others, becomes a threat to its oneness, and her death a seal for its unity. As Schiller’s tragedy unfolds, it conforms to the mythic pattern whereby the sacrifice of a virgin daughter, such as Iphigenia, at the hand of a father-figure secures the unity of a people—a unity threatened at its origins, as Girard avers, by acquisitive mimesis over “objects which the community is incapable of dividing peacefully: women, food, weapons, the best dwelling-sites, etc.”[48]

Johanna’s own father, Thibault, brings the charge of guilt against her on the public occasion of the king’s coronation feast at Rheims. Stepping out from the crowd, Thibault confronts Johanna in the presence of the king and his court and announces to all present that Johanna’s victories have been wrought “through the devil’s wiles” (“durch des Teufels Kunst”) and by means of sorcery, as a result of a pact with Satan: “Here unto the enemy / Of man she bartered her immortal soul, / That he with brief and earthly fame extol her” (IV.xi.2975, 2992-94): “Hier verkaufte sie / Dem Feind der Menschen ihr unsterblich Teil, / Daß er mit kurzem Weltruhm sie verherrliche.” In placing such a demonizing accusation on the lips of Johanna’s father, Schiller accomplishes a dramatic, mythic transfer of the persecutory material from the trial records at Rouen, where the historical Joan was charged with witchcraft and condemned as a heretic. [49]

Johanna also attributes to herself the polluting guilt that is the scapegoat’s burden. Recoiling from Agnes Sorel’s sisterly embrace, the conscience-stricken Johanna cries out, “Forsake me! Turn from me! Do not pollute / Thyself with my pestiferous encounter! / Be happy! Go! Let me in deepest night / Conceal my horror, my disgrace, and my / Misfortune”(IV.ii.2702-06): “Verlaß mich. Wende dich von mir! Beflecke / Dich nicht mit meiner pesterfüllten Nähe! / Sei glücklich, geh, mich laß in tiefster Nacht / Mein Unglück, meine Schande, mein Entsetzen / Verbergen.” Later, when Johanna shrinks from carrying the banner of the Queen of Heaven, she addresses the Virgin within the hearing of Dunois, La Hire, and Du Chatel, to welcome her destruction at the Virgin’s hand: “Destroy and punish me, take e’en thy lightning / And let it fall upon my guilty head! / My bond I’ve broken, and I have profaned / And desecrated thy most holy name!” (IV.iii.2743-46): “Verderbe, strafe mich, nimm deine Blitze, / Und laß sie fallen auf mein schuldig Haupt. / Gebrochen hab ich meinen Bund, entweiht, / Gelästert hab ich deinen heilgen Namen!” As if in answer to her prayer for punishing lightning bolts, violent claps of thunder sound repeatedly during Thibault’s denunciation of Johanna. Heaven itself seems to speak in witness against her.

Johanna herself remains silent and motionless during the scenes that represent her trial and condemnation. As Girard emphasizes, the victim of ritual sacrifice is always silent and silenced—often by being gagged or drugged—in order to confirm the myth of its guilt and thus the community’s innocence of murder.[50] Unlike the historical Joan, who defended herself heroically under repeated inquisition, the mythic Joan/Johanna refuses to contradict her father’s witness against her. Sorel begs Johanna to break her “unpropitious silence” (“dies unglückselge Schweigen”) in answer to “this horrid accusation” (IV.xi.3001, 3005: “die gräßliche Beschuldigung”); La Hire begs her to declare her innocence: “The guiltless has a tongue” (IV.xi. 3010-11): “Die Unschuld / Hat eine Sprache;” and Thibault challenges her to speak: “Say thou art innocent! Deny the foe / Is in thy heart and brand me as a liar!” (IV.xi.3022-23): “Sprich, du seist schuldlos. Leugn es, daß der Feind / In deinem Herzen ist.” Mute, she refuses to give even tokens of her innocence by clasping the crucifix or taking the friendly hand of Dunois, which he extends to her.

One by one, Johanna’s supporters believe in her guilt, turn away from her, abandon her, and concur in her expulsion from the city into the wilderness—an expulsion which necessarily exposes her to capture and death at the hands of the English. The stage directions in scenes xi, xii, and xiii of Act IV powerfully enforce the “all-against-one structure” that, according to Girard, is definitive of narratives of victimage. [51]”All draw back in astonishment” (“Alle treten mit Entsetzen zurück”) when Thibault points his accusing finger at his daughter to name her a witch. Then all eyes are fixed on her, as she stands motionless and silent: “Allgemeine Stille, alle Blicke sind auf sie gespannt, sie steht unbeweglich.” Agnes Sorel pleads with her, then “walks away from her in dismay”: “Agnes Sorel tritt mit Entsetzen von ihr hinweg.” La Hire at first draws near, then “retreats affrighted” from Johanna: “La Hire tritt entsetzt zurück.” At the crashes of thunder, “the populace flees”: “Das Volk entflieht zu allen Seiten.” Then the king and his courtiers depart, leaving only Dunois on stage with the Maid, who “turns away from him with convulsive emotion”: “Sie wendet sich mit einer zuckenden Bewegung von ihm hinweg.” Du Chatel returns briefly to summon Dunois (“You have no honor / To linger here”) and to command the expulsion of Johanna D’Arc: “You may leave the city unmolested. / For you the gates stand open” (IV.xiii.3042-44): “Der König will erlauben, / Daß Ihr die Stadt verlasset ungekränkt. / Die Tore stehn Euch offen.”

Driven out into the wilderness during the storm, Johanna counsels her faithful friend Raimond to leave her: “Thou seest, a curse pursues me and all else flees me; / Care for yourself and leave me to my fate” (V.iv.3110-11): “Du siehst, mir folgt der Fluch, und alles flieht mich, / Sorg für dich selber und verlaß mich auch.” She learns to her dismay that even Raimond regards her as someone “guilty of grave sin” (“der schweren Sünde schuldig”), as “an outcast spurning God” (“die Verworfne, / Die ihrem Gott entsagt”), on the basis of “silence,” her “confession”: “Euer schweigendes Geständnis” (V.iv.3133-34, 3139). To Raimond she confides her innocence of sorcery, telling him that she kept silence in the face of a monstrous charge out of a double piety, submitting to her God-given fate as a divine “visitation” (“eine Schickung”) and accepting Thibault’s action as a fatherly “proving” (V.iv.3156, 3151): “Und väterlich wird auch die Prüfung sein.”

Even in this intimate exchange, however, Johanna does not declare herself to be (or to have been) innocent of all guilt. The stormy expulsion, which she identifies with the cleansing work of God in nature, has, she says, “healed” and “purified” her being, ending the confusion and “strife within [her] heart” (V.iv.3175, 3177, 3172). Writing about this “strife” (“der Streit”), E. L. Stahl observes: “Schiller invented the inward conflicts of both Maria [Stuart] and Johanna, for they are not attested by history or legend.” [52] Schiller, in short, chose to make his Johanna impure, anguished, and guilty in a way the historical Saint Joan was not, in order to refashion her into a tragic heroine in the root meaning of that word: that is, as a scapegoat. According to myth, as Girard insists, the scapegoat must always be guilty. The “mythical lie” is that “of the guilty victim who deserves to die.”[53]

Critics of Schiller’s Maid of Orleans usually declare Johanna innocent of the “false” charges brought against her by her father and interpret her silence as an act of expiation for a “real” and “different” sin, known only to Johanna herself. Edna Purdie phrases it thus: “By suffering silently a false charge, she . . . atones for a different fault.”[54] From a mythic point of view, however, the charge that her father brings against Johanna is literally true and cannot be contradicted without perjury. When Thibault finally adjures her in the name of “the God who o’er us thunders” to “deny the foe / Is in thy heart” (IV.xi.3022-23: “Antworte bei dem Gott, der droben donnert! . . . Leugn es, daß der Feind / In deinem Herzen ist”), she cannot do so.

Schiller’s word choice is deliberate and striking. The word “foe” refers, on the one hand, to the devil, the eternal Adversary and Diabolos; on the other hand, to Lionel, the English prince for whom Johanna has conceived a passion. What Schiller as an interpreter of myth and culture has recognized is that the scapegoat always has “the foe” in his or her heart, because the victim is sacrificed as a means of reconciling forces within the community, forces whose violent antagonism—at first acquisitive, then mimetic, and finally contagious—threatens the very existence of the community. Because the victim becomes a generalized surrogate for the “foe,” it is and must be demonized, because the Satan is, by definition, the “stumbling block,” the “one who opposes.”[55] Part of the horror of the victim is that it absorbs into itself the differences that have separated the one from the other, that have atomized the community and defined everyone as a “foe” of everyone else. At a time of crisis, everyone has come to oppose everyone else; now all turn suddenly against the one whom they choose to embody (and thus to exteriorize) their strife. Expelling the victim provides a means of putting division itself to a temporary end.

The Guilt of All, and the Guiltiness of Art

Like Freud and Girard after him, however, Schiller clearly recognized that such an expulsion does not cleanse the community of guilt. Unlike Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, The Maid of Orleans does not end with Johanna being driven from the city into the wilderness. It follows her there, but it also represents the happenings in the French camp after her condemnation. As the storm clears, one and all regret their hastiness in banishing France’s savior: “But now cool-headedness returns to us. / We see her as a wanderer in our midst, / And find in her not any fault at all. / We are confused; we fear we have committed / A grave injustice—E’en the King repents” (V.vii.3267-71): “Jetzt kehrt uns die Besonnenheit zurück, / Wir sehn sie, wie sie unter ns gewandelt, / Und keinen Tadel finden wir an ihr. Wir sind verwirrt—wir fürchten schweres Unrecht / Getan zu haben.—Reue fühlt der König.” Dunois publicly maintains Johanna’s innocence, and the Archbishop declares the guiltiness of the community: “One of two faults we have been guilty of: / We have defended us with magic arms / Of hell, or else a saint of God we’ve banned!” (V.vii.3284-86): “Eins von den beiden haben wir verschuldet! / Wir haben uns mit höllschen Zauberwaffen / Verteidigt oder eine Heilige verbannt!”

The response of the community is to try to atone for its actions by rescuing Johanna from her English captors. Dunois issues the call to arms: “Oh rescue her, as she once rescued you, / From a most fear-provoking death!” (V.viii.3316-17): “O rettet sie, die euch gerettet hat, / Von einem grausenvolle Tode!” Johanna, chained and in prison, also offers atonement for her own heart’s infidelity by refusing to accept the proffered love and assistance of Lionel, who begs her to disown her French loyalties as a fitting act of revenge, since she herself has been disowned by the French.

Both in its sin and in its atonement, however, the community is relatively passive in comparison to Johanna, who exerts a powerful agency throughout. The community is confused by Thibault’s accusation and Johanna’s determined silence, so that its violent expulsion of her as victim appears rather to be Johanna’s self-chosen departure from their midst. When the French forces rally to her rescue, Johanna at first hopes that they will triumph over the English without her direct assistance. They begin to experience a devastating defeat, however. Dunois is wounded and seized, Charles arrested, the soldiers killed or put to flight. Their weakness and need inspires miraculous strength in Johanna, who as a new Samson breaks her chains, appears suddenly as an omnipresent warrior on the battlefield, rescues the king, and reverses the tide of battle.

Victory belongs in the end to France, but only, as King Charles admits, at the price of Johanna’s death. She dies, but no one murders her. The play does not even show her receiving a mortal wound from any single combatant. Her murder as murder is hidden, in keeping with the myth of victimage, which attributes all blame not to the community, but to the demonized scapegoat, and all glory and power to the victim, whom the community deifies. In the words of Girard, “The community thinks of itself as entirely passive vis-à-vis its own victim. . . . The victim is held responsible for the renewed calm in the community and for the disorder that preceded this return. It is even believed to have brought about its own death.” [56]

The closing scenes of divinization carefully invert the scenes of Johanna’s condemnation. Reluctant to bear her banner at the time of Charles’ coronation, because of her sense of her own unworthiness, the dying Johanna eagerly takes it into her hands as the sign of the accomplishment of her life’s mission: “Without my banner I dare not arrive. / It was entrusted to me by my Master, / And I must lay it down before his throne” (V.xiv.3531-33): “Nicht ohne meine Fahne darf ich kommen, / Von meinem Meister ward sie mir vertraut, / Vor seinem Thron muß ich sie niederlegen.” Whereas she had been surrounded by thunderbolts at the time of her condemnation, Johanna is now granted a vision of a rainbow as a token of Heaven’s restored favor. Her spirit mounts “upward—upward,” while “Earth doth backward fly” (“Hinauf—hinauf—Die Erde flieht zurück”), and she sinks down to her death. “No more rejected and despised” (“nicht mehr verachtet und verstoßen”) by her own people, Johanna is acclaimed by them as “an angel passing” (V.xiv.3526, 3508): “Seht einen Engel scheiden!”. As banner after banner covers her body in tribute, Johanna dies a beautiful death—her corpse literally screened from view—and her passing in glory, like her expulsion in shame, seals the unity of her people.

Johanna dies on a battlefield, adoringly surrounded by her worshipful countrymen, whereas Joan of Arc was burnt to death at the stake, abandoned by the French, wrongly condemned by Church authorities, and tortured and cruelly executed by the English. Schiller presented to his audiences not the historic scandal of Joan’s martyrdom, but the myth of Johanna in the classic form of tragedy. Spectacular as the ending of Die Jungfrau von Orleans undoubtedly is, its disturbing difference from the ending of Joan’s real life continues to disquiet audiences, to provoke unease, and to raise the question, “Why?”

To reply, as Stahl does, that Schiller’s “reasons for violating a truth of this kind . . . were artistic, not moral, reasons” is to beg the question, which is and remains an ethical one.[57] The problem is compounded, moreover, because Schiller himself did not isolate moral, political, and aesthetic concerns, but rather saw them as closely intertwined.

In his consideration of the historical matter of Joan of Arc, Schiller clearly understood its form, its higher truth, to be mythic. Schiller contemplated Joan of Arc and discovered in her a scapegoat. Retelling her life as a tragedy thus enabled him and us to see powerful mechanisms at work in her history—mechanisms of rivalry, of communal self-preservation and victimage, of condemnation and rehabilitation, of expulsion and reclamation, of violence and the sacred, and of institutional formation—that would otherwise remain obscure. Such an endeavor necessarily demands the recognition of similarities and results in an aesthetic doubling of Joan as Johanna, but it also requires one to ignore or deny the profound differences that exist between a classical tragedy and a medieval saint’s life. As we have seen, Schiller had to de-Christianize Joan of Arc; to invent her self-division, guilt, and silence; and to deny her execution.
vIt may be that Schiller, at odds with the faith of his father and of his upbringing, understood Christianity, as Freud did, to be a profoundly sacrificial religion, not unlike the cults of antiquity, aimed at the purging of communal and personal guilt and at the prevention or containment of violence through prohibition, memorial, and ritual. W. White observes: “The basic concepts of Christian belief—redemption through sacrifice, sin and atonement, a paradise lost and a paradise to be regained—all these loom large in Schiller’s writing, not in their orthodox Christian sense, but as forms of thought and imagery in which his mind habitually moves.” [58]

And yet the striking absence of overt Christian references in the play suggests that Schiller must have been aware of unbridgeable differences between the pagan contexts in which tragedy thrives and the anti-mythic, anti-sacrificial ethos of Christianity. Christian references are, in fact, almost entirely lacking in Die Jungfrau von Orleans. There are some significant biblical allusions, alongside many classical ones, but they are almost all from the Old Testament.[59] The major biblical figures to whom Johanna is explicitly compared, Moses and Samson, are carefully selected as sinner saints, whose expulsion from the community results in part from their own wrongdoing, even as it contributes to the unfolding of a beneficent, providential plan.[60] Even in suffering, Johanna is not a Christ figure. Innocent of sorcery, she is guilty—inescapably, pathetically, sublimely guilty—of other things.

Christianity, which Schiller once called “the only aesthetic religion,” has, in short, been expelled, along with history, from the story of Joan of Arc, and art has taken its place.[61] In Die Jungfrau von Orleans Schiller concerns himself less with Joan of Arc than with Johanna as a figure of the artist, but that substitution veils a hidden murder—not only Joan’s, but also Christianity’s. In a world where religion has been cast out, art serves as a substitute means for the fostering of spirituality, the purging of guilt, and the ending of division. Tragedy as a cathartic play form remains behind, long after actual goat-sacrifices are no longer offered in ritual observance. “Since sacrifice is always a question of substitution,” Girard writes, “it is always possible to make a new substitution”—in this case, not only of Johanna for Joan, and of pagan cult for Christianity, but also of art for religion.[62]

But art, too, in an increasingly materialistic age, is and remains in danger of being cast out as something useless and guilty, because beautiful. As Schiller recognized, beauty offends a fragmented society, because of the untouched wholeness it represents and prophesies. For beauty, therefore, there awaits a prophet’s fate. To forestall that tragic outcome, Schiller composed his “romantische Tragödie” as a ritual performance, designed to avert the real crisis that the sacred violence of the French Revolution presaged for the modern world, where victims multiply uncontrollably. In a prophetic speech, Johanna tells Charles that her place, as a peasant supporter of the throne, will one day be taken by poor rebels who overthrow their king—a violent action setting in motion a series of sacrificial substitutions (Cf. III.iv.2098-2101). As a tragedy about tragedies—a play about the tragic fate of artists and art forms—Die Jungfrau von Orleans thus celebrates not just the beautiful death of its heroine, but the death of beauty itself. On stage, beauty holds its position, albeit in death, even as it evokes fear about what shall come in the place of Johanna, of the artist, and of art itself.


1. Walter Hinderer and Daniel O. Dahlstrom, “Introduction,” Friedrich Schiller’s Essays, ed. Walter Hinderer and Daniel O. Dahlstrom, The German Library, Vol. 17 (New York: Continuum, 1993), p. xix. I use this collection of Schiller’s translated essays throughout. For the German text I use Friedrich Schiller, Philosophische Schriften, ed. Helmut Koopmann, in Sämtliche Werke, Bd. 5 (Munich: Winkler Verlag, 1968).

2. Schiller, Aesthetic Education, Seventh Letter, p. 104. “[S]o muß man jeden Versuch einer solchen Staatsveränderung so lange für unzeitig und jede darauf gegründete Hoffnung so lange für schimärisch erklären, bis die Trennung in dem innern Menschen wiederaufgehoben” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 329).

3.Schiller, Aesthetic Education, Second Letter, p. 90. “[J]a daß man, um jenes politische Problem in der Erfahrung zu lösen, durch das ästhetische den Weg nehmen muß, weil es die Schönheit ist, durch welche man zu der Freiheit wandert” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 314).

4. Lesley Sharpe, for instance, writes: “It is, of course, in any case difficult to find truly tragic feelings and situations, whatever one’s interpretation of the play. . . . Perhaps, therefore, it is safest to regard the term ‘Tragödie’ as denoting nothing more than the fact that the play ends with the death of the heroine, which is a moving spectacle” (Schiller and the Historical Character: Presentation and Interpretation in the Historiographical Works and in the Historical Dramas [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982], p. 132).

5. Carlyle, Life of Schiller, pp. 156-57. On Schiller’s reception in England, see Fredric Ewen, The Prestige of Schiller in England, 1788-1859 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1932).

6. See H. B. Garland, Schiller, the Dramatic Writer: A Study of Style in the Plays (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), p. 228.

7. For a brilliant study of this sort of fratricidal strife between the poets and their critics, see Sandor Goodhart, Sacrificing Commentary: Reading the End of Literature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1996).

8. Schiller, “On the Art of Tragedy,” trans. Daniel O. Dahlstrom, in Essays, p. 18. “[D]ie Tragödie . . . . erhält Macht, ja Verbindlichkeit, die historische Wahrheit den Gesetzen der Dichtkunst unterzuordnen, und den gegebenen Stoff nach ihrem Bedürfnisse zu bearbeiten. . . .bei strenger Beobachtung der historische Wahrheit nicht selten die poetische leiden, und umgekehrt bie grober Verletzung der historischen die poetische nur um so mehr gewinnen kann” (Philosophische Schriften, pp. 161-62).

9. Friedrich Schiller, Schillers Briefe, 1798-1800, ed. Lieselotte Blumenthal, in Schillers Werke (Nationalausgabe), Bd. 30 (Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus, 1961), Letter 261, p. 224.

10. Schiller, Aesthetic Education, Twenty-Second Letter, p. 151. “In einem wahrhaft schönen Kunstwerk soll der Inhalt nichts, die Form aber alles tun. . . . Die Inhalt, wie erhaben und weitumfassend er auch sei, wirkt also jederzeit einschränkend auf der Geist, und nur von der Form ist wahre ästhetische Freiheit zu erwarten. Darin also besteht das eigentliche Kunstgeheimnis des Meisters, daß er den Stoff durch die Form vertilgt” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 379).

11. Schiller, Aesthetic Education, Twenty-Sixth Letter,” p. 166. “Insofern also das Bedürfnis der Realität und die Anhänglichkeit an das Wirkliche bloße Folgen des Mangels sind, ist die Gleichgültigkeit gegen Realität und das Interesse am Schein eine wahre Erweiterung der Menschheit und ein entschiedener Schritt zur Kultur” (Philosophische Schriften, pp. 395-96).

12. Schiller, Aesthetic Education, Twenty-Sixth Letter, p. 166. “[E]s ist dasselbe bei allen Völkerstämmen, welche der Sklaverei des tierischen Standes entsprungen sind: die Freude am Schein, die Neigung zum Putz und zum Spiele” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 395).

13. Schiller, Aesthetic Education, Twenty-Sixth Letter, p. 168. “Dieses menschliche Herrscherrecht übt er aus in der Kunst des Scheins, und je strenger er hier das Mein und Dein voneinander sondert, je sorgfältiger er die Gestalt von dem Wesen trennt, und je mehr Selbstständigkeit er derselben zu geben weiß . . . .” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 397).

14. Schiller writes that he first became acquainted with Shakespeare “at a very early age.” See “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry,” trans. Daniel O. Dahlstrom, in Essays, p. 197.

15. Bernard Shaw, “Preface to Saint Joan,” Saint Joan (Baltimore: Penguin, 1951), p. 31.

16. Sigmund Freud, “Civilization and Its Discontents,” in Civilisation, War and Death, ed. John Rickman, Psycho-analytical Epitomes No. 4 (London: Hogarth Press, 1968), p. 53.

17. Elizabeth M. Wilkinson, “Reflections after Translating Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man,” in Schiller: Bicentenary Lectures, ed. F. Norman (London: University of London Institute of Germanic Languages and Literatures, 1960), p. 80. See Schillers Briefe, 1801-1802, ed. Stefan Ormanns, in Schillers Werke (Nationalausgabe), Bd. 31 (Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus, 1985), Letter 25, p. 25.

18. Freud, “Civilization and Its Discontents,” p. 75.
19. Schiller, Aesthetic Education, Sixth Letter, p. 103. “Einseitigkeit in Übung der Kräfte führt zwar das Individuum unausbleiblich zum Irrtum, aber die Gattung zur Wahrheit. Dadurch allein, daß wir die ganze Energie unsers Geistes in einem Brennpunkt versammeln, und unser ganzes Wesen in eine einzige Kraft zusammenziehen, setzen wir dieser einzelnen Kraft gleichsam Flügel an, und führen sie künstlicherweise weit über die Schranken hinaus, welche die Natur ihr gesetzt zu haben scheint” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 328).

20. Schiller, Aesthetic Education, Sixth Letter, p. 102. “Gerne will ich Ihnen eingestehen, daß sowenig es auch den Individuen bei dieser Zerstückelung ihres Wesens wohl werden kann, doch die Gattung auf keine andere Art hätte Fortschritte machen können” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 327).

21. Schiller, Aesthetic Education, Sixth Letter, p. 103. “Unter dem Fluch dieses Weltweckes” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 328.

22. Schiller, Aesthetic Education, Sixth Letter, pp. 102, 104. “Dieser Antagonism der Kräfte ist das große Instrument der Kultur. . . . Es muß also falsch sein, daß die Ausbildung der einzelnen Kräfte das Opfer ihrer Totalität notwendig macht; oder wenn auch das Gesetz der Natur noch so sehr dahin strebte, so muß es bei uns stehen, diese Totalität in unsrer Natur, welche die Kunst zerstört hat, durch eine höhere Kunst wiederherzustellen” (Philosophische Schriften, pp. 327, 329).

24. Schiller, Aesthetic Education, Sixth Letter, p. 99. “Die Kultur selbst war es, welche der neuern Menschheit diese Wunde schlug. Sobald auf der einen Seite die erweiterte Erfahrung und das bestimmtere Denken eine schärfere Scheidung der Wissenschaften, auf der andern das verwickeltere Uhrwerk der Staaten eine strengere Absonderung der Stände und Geschäfte notwendig machte, so zerriß auch der innere Bund der menschlichen Natur, und ein verderblicher Streit entzweite ihre harmonischen Kräfte” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 324).

Schiller, Aesthetic Education, Ninth Letter, p. 108. “[S]o kehre er, eine fremde Gestalt, in sein Jahrhundert zurück; aber nicht, um es mit seiner Erscheinung zu erfreuen, sondern furchtbar wie Agamemnons Sohn, um es zu reinigen” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 334).

25. Friedrich Schiller, The Maiden of Orleans, trans. John T. Krumpelmann, University of North Carolina Studies in the Germanic Languages and Literatures, No. 24 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959), Prologue. Scene iii, line 162. I use this translation throughout, giving Act, Scene, and line numbers parenthetically. For the German text I use Friedrich Schiller, Die Jungfrau von Orleans, ed. Benno von Weise and Lieselotte Blumenthal, in Schillers Werke (Nationalausgabe), Bd. 9 (Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus, 1948).

26. Sharpe, Schiller and the Historical Character, p. 137.

27. René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1977).

28. Schillers Briefe, Bd. 30, Letter 252, p. 217.

29. Schiller, Aesthetic Education, Eighth Letter, p. 107. “Nicht ohne Bedeutung läßt der alte Mythus die Göttin der Weisheit in voller Rüstung aus Jupiters Haupte steigen; denn schon ihre erste Verrichtung ist kriegerisch. Schon in der Geburt hat sie einen harten Kampf mit den Sinnen zu bestehen, die aus ihrer süßen Ruhe nicht gerissen sein wollen” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 332).

30. John D. Simons, Friedrich Schiller (Boston: Twayne, 1981), p. 131.

31. Schiller, “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry,” p. 202. “Dieser Weg, den die neueren Dichter gehen, ist übrigens derselbe, den der Mensch überhaupt sowohl im Einzelnen als im Ganzen einschlagen muß. Die Natur macht ihn mit sich eins, die Kunst trennt und entzweiet ihn, durch das Ideal kehrt er zur Einheit zurück” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 456).

32. Viola Geyersbach, “Schiller, 1759-1788,” in Friedrich Schiller, 1759-1805: Ausstellung zum 225. Geburtstag des Dichters der deutschen Klassik (Weimer: Waisenhaus, 1984), p. 31.

33. Heinrich Düntzer, The Life of Schiller, trans. Percy E. Pinkerton (London: Macmillan, 1883), p. 95.
34. Quoted in Düntzer, Life of Schiller, p. 102.

35. Schiller, “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry,” p. 199. “Dichter von dieser naiven Gattung sind in einem künstlichen Weltalter nicht so recht mehr an ihrer Stelle. Auch sind sie in demselben kaum mehr möglich, wenigstens auf keine andere Weise möglich als daß sie in ihrem Zeitalter wild laufen, und durch ein günstiges Geschick vor dem verstümmelnden Einfluß desselben geborgen werden. Aus der Sozietät selbst können sie nie und nimmer hervorgehen; aber außerhalb derselben erscheinen sie noch zuweilen, doch mehr als Fremdlinge, die man anstaunt” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 454).

36. Schiller, “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry,” pp. 199-200. “Von den Kritikern, den eigentlichen Zaunhütern des Geschmacks, werden sie als Grenzstörer gehaßt, die man lieber unterdrücken möchte” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 454).

37. Schiller, “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry,” p. 181. “Sie sind, was wir waren; sie sind, was wir wieder werden sollen. Wir waren Natur, wie sie, und unsere Kultur soll uns, auf dem Wege der Vernunft und der Freiheit, zur Natur zurückführen. Sie sind also zugleich Darstellung unserer verlornen Kindheit. . . . Zugleich sind sie Darstellungen unserer höchsten Vollendung im Ideale” (Philosophische Schriften, pp. 436, 434).

38. Schiller, “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry,” p. 182. “Ein heiliger Gegenstand” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 436).

39. Schiller, “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry,” p. 180. “[D]ie Natur mit der Kunst im Kontraste stehe und sie beschäme” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 433).

40. Schiller, Aesthetic Education, Twenty-Fifth Letter, p. 162. “[U]nd es erschient ihm eine Welt, weil er aufgehört hat, mit derselben eins auszumachen” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 391).

41. On Johanna’s clothing, see Gail K. Hart, “Re-dressing History: Mother Nature, Mother Isabeau, the Virgin Mary, and Schiller’s Jungfrau,” Women in German Yearbook 14 (1988): 91-107. I thank Beate Allert for this reference.

42. Schiller, “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry,” p. 245. “[S]o ist jede Trennung und Vereinzelung dieser Kräfte ein gewaltsamer Zustand, und das Ideal der Erholung ist die Wiederherstellung unseres Naturganzen nach einseitigen Spannungen” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 501).

43. Schiller, “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry,” p. 233. “Dem sentimentalischen hat sie die Macht verliehen oder veilmehr einen lebendigen Trieb eingeprägt, jene Einheit, die durch Abstraktion in ihm aufgehoben worden, aus sich selbst wiederherzustellen” (Philosophische Schriften, p. 489).

44. See René Girard, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, trans. Stephen Bann and Michael Metteer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), pp. 51-58.

45. On the traits that mark the outsider, see Girard, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, pp. 122-23.

46. Sharpe, Friedrich Schiller: Drama, Thought, and Politics, p. 276.

47. Girard, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, p. 78.

48. Ibid., p. 51.

49. On medieval texts of persecution as a partial demystification of the victimage mechanism, see Girard, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, pp. 126-38.

50. Ibid., p. 170.

51. Ibid., p. 39.

52. Stahl, Friedrich Schiller’s Drama, p. 107.

53. René Girard, “Are the Gospels Mythical?” First Things 62 (April, 1996): 31.

54. Edna Purdie, “Schiller,” in Schiller: Bicentenary Lectures, p. 19.

55. On Satan and Skandalon, see Girard, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, pp. 162, 418-19.
Ibid., p. 26.

56. Stahl, Friedrich Schiller’s Drama, p. 118.

58. W. White, “Schiller: Reflections on a Bicentenary,” in Bi-centenary Lectures, p. 167.

59. See Garland, Schiller, the Dramatic Writer, pp. 224-25.

60. Schiller’s likening of Johanna as a “blind instrument” and warrior to Samson may well have been inspired by Milton’s use of the blinded Samson in Samson Agonistes as a figure for himself as poet.

61. Quoted in White, “Reflections on a Bicentenary,” p. 167.

62. Girard, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, p. 53.

By Ann Astell, Purdue University. Professor. History of Christianity. 2003