Joan of Arc, often referred to as The Maid Joan is, of course, the central character of the play. Based upon the historical character, Shaw presents her as a simple country girl who is uneducated but not unintelligent. For the public, Joan, according to Shaw's Preface, offers her brilliant ideas in terms of voices from heaven which speak to her. Early in the play, she establishes her superiority in terms of military tactics and strategy, always knowing where to place the cannons and other artillery. Until her capture, she proves that her military strategy is flawless. Throughout the play, in all sorts of situations, Joan's basic honesty and her innocence shine through all of the hypocrisy of the others, and when her judges use complicated ecclesiastical terms to trap her, her basic common sense makes them look stupid. She is, however, inexperienced in the ways of the medieval society and ignorant of the jealousies of the feudal system. Her belief in the rightness of her own conscience and her refusal to yield to the authority of the Church have caused Shaw and others to refer to her as the first Protestant to be martyred by the Catholic Church.
Robert de Baudricourt A gentlemanly squire from Joan's district, Lorraine; he is the first person of position or rank to back The Maid's plans. Through him, Joan is able to obtain her first armor and her first chance to show her military skills.
Bertrand de Poulengey (Polly) One of Joan's first converts, he aids Joan in getting an audience with Robert de Baudricourt, and he later rides with her in the Battle of Orleans.
The Archbishop of Rheims The churchman who, at first, sees Joan as a pious and innocent girl, one who is in close service with God. As Joan proves to be constantly right, however, and, later, when Joan is responsible for crowning the Dauphin king, the Archbishop becomes disheartened with The Maid and, ultimately, sides against her.
Monseigneur de la Trémouille The Lord Chamberlain in the court of the Dauphin and also the "commander-in-chief" of the French forces. He has been accustomed to bullying the Dauphin, and, therefore, he deeply resents Joan when she is given command of the French forces.
Gilles de Rais (Bluebeard) A captain in the army and a devoted follower of The Maid even though he is not a religious person.
The Dauphin Later to be crowned Charles VII in the Rheims cathedral, the Dauphin is portrayed as weak, sniveling, and unconcerned about matters of the court or of the country. He is forced by The Maid to become more manly and to assume an authority that he does not want.
Dunois (The Bastard) The young, popular, and efficient leader of the French forces who recognizes Joan's military genius but in the final battle is not convinced that she should be saved.
The Earl of Warwick The English earl in charge of the English forces and Joan's most bitter and avid secular opponent. He sees Joan's simple opinions that the people should give their allegiance directly to the king as being a threat to the loyalty that the feudal lords demand from their serfs. He demands Joan's death as a way of retaining the status quo of the feudal system.
John de Stogumber The Earl of Warwick's chaplain. At first, he is seen as a vicious and ferocious accuser of Joan's. He sees her in the most simplistic terms as a witch who should be burned without delay. He does not understand either the most complicated or the most subtle arguments concerning Joan's threat to the Church and to the aristocracy. However, the most dramatic change of the entire drama occurs in the person of de Stogumber; after he has witnessed the burning of The Maid, he becomes a weak, broken man who spends the rest of his life trying to do good deeds for others in order to alleviate his guilt for his vicious attacks against The Maid.
Peter Cauchon The academic theologian who represents the "considered wisdom of the Church." For him, Joan represents a direct threat to the historical power invested in the Church, and he is proud that he has never asserted his own individuality and has always yielded to the opinion of the Church. For Joan to assert her own private conscience, to rely upon her own judgments, and to commune directly with God without the intervention of the Church is, to Cauchon, heresy in its highest form.
The Inquisitor Physically, the Inquisitor should look like a kindly and sweet elderly gentleman. However, he represents the institutions of the Church in their most iron-clad disciplines. He believes strongly in the rightness of these institutions and in the collected wisdom of the Church. The individual conscience must be subjected to the authority of the Church, not just in this particular instance but throughout all time. His long rambling speech on heresy shows him to be a defender of these institutions and one who rejects any type of individualism.
D'Estivet The prosecutor against Joan; he is often impatient with the subtle questions of the court, and his case is based on pure legalism.
Courcelles A young priest who has been of help in compiling some sixty-four charges against The Maid; he is incensed that many of the charges ("She stole the Bishop's horse") have been dismissed by the court.
Brother Martin Ladvenu A sympathetic young priest who wants to save Joan's life and who is seemingly deeply concerned about Joan's inability to intellectually distinguish or understand the charges made against her. He feels her only sin is her ignorance, but once she is sentenced, he declares her imprisonment to be just. However, he holds up the cross for Joan to see while she is on her funeral stake, and he is instrumental in Joan's rehabilitation.
The Executioner He represents the horrors of the stake. His other importance is that he reports that The Maid's heart would not burn.
An English Soldier He is the common soldier who makes a cross out of two sticks and gives it to Joan. For this deed, he receives one day a year out of Hell.