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Joan of Arc, the female cultural icon of Europe to now go woke and non-binary, Shakespeare’s Globe to portray her with ‘they/them’ pronouns

Journalist turned politician Sophie Walker remarked, "When I was a little girl, Joan of Arc presented thrilling possibilities about what one young girl could do against massed ranks of men. Rewriting her as not female and presenting it as progress is a massive disappointment."

On Thursday (August 11), the performing arts venue, Shakespeare’s Globe, announced that its new play will feature the character of historic French saint Joan of Arc as ‘non-binary’.

In a tweet, it informed, “Our new play I, Joan shows Joan as a legendary leader who uses the pronouns ‘they/them’. We are not the first to present Joan in this way, and we will not be the last. We can’t wait to share this production with everyone and discover this cultural icon.”

The contentious play has been written by Charlie Josephine and directed by Ilinca Radulian. It will be premiered at the Shakespeare’s Globe on August 25, 2022. The character of Joan of Arc will be played by Isobel Thom.

Joan of Arc is considered a feminist icon, saint and an inspirational figure in France. Born in a Catholic family, she believed to have divine powers to lead France during the 100 Years War against England. She is famous for securing French victory in the fallen city of Orléans in 1429.

Later, the French heroine was captured by the British and executed at the tender age of 19 for hersey, witchcraft and committing the sin of dressing up as a man. Joan of Arc was accorded the title of saint in 1920.

The play ‘I, Joan’ is meant to reinterpret the character of the saint from a non-binary perspective, a view strongly defended by its writer Charline Josephine (who goes by the pronoun they/he).

“Joan was this working class, young person, who was transgressing gender at a time when it as really dangerous and that just felt instantly relatable to me.’I was assigned female at birth. I’m non-binary, I’m from a working class background. I’ve often felt like I’ve had something to say and haven’t been given permission to say it,” Josephine claimed.

Shakespeare’s Globe defends move

In a statement, the performing arts venue defended the decision to showcase such a play on Joan of Arc.

“Shakespeare did not write historically accurate plays. He took figures of the past to ask questions about the world around him. Our writers of today are doing no different, whether that’s looking at Ann Boleyn, Nell Gwynn, Emilia Bassano, Edward II, or Joan of Arc,” it claimed.

“It was no accident that Shakespeare moved his playhouse beyond the jurisdiction of the London City Walls. He wanted to play. Play with identity, power, with the idea of pleasure, and with all sides of an argument,” the Globe suggested that the English playwright would approved of such a historical reimagination.

It concluded, “Shakespeare was not afraid to ask difficult questions as he imagined the lives of 1,223 characters; he represented an extraordinary range of diverse perspectives and identities, and we are all still enjoying his work over 400 years later. Shakespeare was not afraid of discomfort, and neither is the Globe.”

‘Woke’ play on Joan of Arc draws ire of social media users

The play drew flak from netizens for deliberately mis-characterizing a powerful female figure from history. Popular Twitter user Julie Scott wrote, “So the zealots decide that Joan must have IDed as non-binary because a woman couldn’t possibly be heroic. Why can’t people see how sexist this movement is?”

Journalist turned politician Sophie Walker remarked, “When I was a little girl, Joan of Arc presented thrilling possibilities about what one young girl could do against massed ranks of men. Rewriting her as not female and presenting it as progress is a massive disappointment.”

Republican candidate Lavern Spicer wrote, “So the United Kingdom has decided they will be posthumously changing the gender of Joan of Arc and are now making her gender neutral. Where are the feminists? They are LITERALLY ERASING WOMEN!”

While speaking to Daily Mail, Sociology Professor Frank Furedi stated, “Playwrights are allowed to have a bit of poetic license but I think what is interesting about the play is that it very much falls in with the idea of rewriting history.”

“Someone like Joan of Arc would not have any idea what non-binary was. It is a recharacterisation of something that did not even exist at the time. It completely violates the meaning of history – it’s the projecting of a fantasy backwards,” Furedi added.

‘I imagine in time someone will suggest Jane Austen was transgender or George Elliot was non-binary. For French patriots Joan of Arc is someone very special. Her role was all the more heroic because she was a woman,” he emphasised.

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