Summary and Analysis
The scene is set in the antechamber of the throne room of the Dauphin's castle in Chinon. The Archbishop of Rheims and la Trémouille are discussing the huge sums of money that the Dauphin has borrowed from them, and yet the Dauphin is still on the verge of poverty when young Gilles de Rais, better known as Bluebeard, enters and reports that The Maid has had a tremendous effect on the common soldiers; this is confirmed by Captain La Hire, who believes that Joan must be "an angel dressed as a soldier," especially since she has overcome impossible odds even to get to Chinon.
The Dauphin, twenty-six years old, enters with a letter about Joan from Sir Robert de Baudricourt, a letter which is bandied about as the Archbishop and the Chamberlain (la Trémouille) bully and intimidate the Dauphin, refusing to let him see The Maid especially since she is not a respectable person. After some more arguing, Bluebeard offers a challenge: He will pretend to be the Dauphin, and if The Maid cannot distinguish royalty from common blood, then she is a pretender; if she can, then she must be heaven-sent. They all then argue about the siege of Orleans and why the highly touted, respected, and beloved bastard, Dunois, cannot do anything with his military forces. It is agreed that a miracle is indeed needed. When Bluebeard and the Dauphin leave to prepare for the impersonation, the Archbishop and the Chamberlain discuss the nature of miracles. For the Archbishop, a miracle is any "event which creates faith." Furthermore, the Archbishop asserts that the Church alone must decide what is good for the souls of men: ". . . the Church must . . . nourish their faith by poetry." Thus, when The Maid correctly ferrets out the hidden Dauphin, the Archbishop will know how it is done, but if the others think it is a miracle, then let that be their thrill.
The curtains to the antechamber are drawn, revealing the full depth of the throne room, with various members of the royal court assembled. Joan, dressed as a soldier and with cropped hair, is admitted, and she creates an immediate sense of hilarity among the ladies because of her attire. Joan, however, is not at all embarrassed, and when Bluebeard tries to deceive her, she readily dismisses him and goes into the crowd to discover the Dauphin. She drags him from the crowd and tells him that she has been sent to free France of the English and to crown him king in the Cathedral at Rheims. When the Archbishop is consulted on this matter, he is soon convinced that Joan is indeed pious, and he asks everyone to leave The Maid alone with the Dauphin.
Alone, Charles (the Dauphin) confesses his fright and his miserable condition. The others enjoy fighting. On the contrary, however, Charles is "quiet and sensible," and he doesn't "want to kill people." He simply wishes to be left alone to live peacefully. Joan counters that she will "put courage into thee" even though the Dauphin doesn't want courage; he wants to sleep in a comfortable bed and not live in continual terror of being killed or wounded. Charles wants Joan to mind her own business and let him mind his. Joan, however, gradually begins to instill courage and patriotism in him as she tells him forcefully that she will crown him king in Rheims. In resounding rhetoric, Joan promises him that the English will be defeated and France will become holy and the Dauphin will rule. Suddenly, inspired by Joan's faith and enthusiasm, the Dauphin recalls the members of his court and announces that he has given command of the army to The Maid to do with as she likes. As the Chamberlain moves threateningly forward, asserting that he is the commander of the army, Joan pushes the frightened Dauphin forward. He snaps his finger in the Chamberlain's face as Joan draws her sword, kneels, and cries out: "Who is for God and His Maid? Who is for Orleans with me?" All of the knights draw their swords in support of The Maid as the Archbishop gives a sign of blessing to all gathered here.
Again, the "supernatural" aspect of Joan's character is emphasized in the miraculous changes which she has wrought among the common soldiers, even causing the most hardened soldiers to give up their cursing until La Hire believes her to be an "angel dressed as a soldier." The view of the common people toward Joan will never waver, and in the Epilogue, we find out that the common people adored her in spite of the Church's condemnation. One essential objection to Joan is again stated by the Archbishop when he maintains that she is not a respectable woman because "she does not wear women's clothes," and, thus, she is "unwomanly." The issue of Joan's clothes will become central to her trial and will play a significant part in her condemnation. But of larger importance, war has always been the business of men; this is the announced theme of Homer's Iliad and of Virgil's Aeneid, and here, we have a young country girl of seventeen usurping the prerogatives of mature, experienced soldiers, but then, the Dauphin is no "manly" man — that is, he needs someone to order him about, as Joan will do.
When the Archbishop, in discussing miracles, maintains that a miracle is any event which creates faith, he has unintentionally described Joan's entire life and her actions; yet this view is completely overlooked at her trial when all of her accomplishments are debunked.
The first two scenes function as studies in contrast. Whereas Sir Robert de Baudricourt possesses great enthusiasm yet lacks a basic understanding of the nature of martial affairs, the courtiers, on the other hand, have a complete and total perception of what needs to be done, but they have no dedication, no spirit. They are rendered into inertia; they are paralyzed by their own self-interest. This is best seen through the Dauphin, who detests war, who wants to be left alone, and who resents the idea that he was born into kingship. Thus, the fact that Joan can inspire such an insipid person attests to her "miraculous" powers of persuasion and leadership.
Finally, this scene introduces part of the rationale by which Joan is ultimately condemned to the stake. In a theological sense, Joan will ultimately be condemned because she prefers to obey her inner voices rather than obey the authority of the Church. In this scene, the Archbishop introduces the idea that "the Church has to rule for the good of their souls . . . the Church must . . . nourish their faith by poetry." In other words, the individual must always yield to the authority of the Church, and Joan is the epitome of the Protestants who prefer to believe in their own consciences rather than in the Church's authority.