Schiller’s The Maid of Orleans,
act 5, scene 11: Isabel, Johanna, Soldiers [*]
She is virtuous and in love, believes herself to be genuinely inspired (which would be nice), and then there is all manner of magic. But just imagine the horror, she is not burned at the stake, but dies from her wounds on the bed of honor. An old Queen Isabel, who is warring against her son Carl with the English (as Gries tells it), gets her in her power; she is bound firmly to a tree by six-fold chains, meanwhile the battle continues and someone or other who is standing on a hill relates to Isabel how things are going and that Carl is in danger. Jeanne falls into holy madness at the news, and the chains fall away from her in response to her prayer, she flees in order to save the king and in the process receives her mortal wound.
The scene occurs in act 5, scene 11. Johanna, Queen Isabael, and several soldiers speak during the battle below; the soldier reports on the progress of the battle:
Isabel, Johanna, Soldiers.
Johan. Ay! that I will! no power can hinder me.
‘Hark to that sound, the war march of my people!
How its triumphant notes inspire my heart!
Ruin to England! victory to France!
Up, valiant countrymen! The Maid is near:
She cannot, as of yore, before you bear
Her banner — she is bound with heavy chains;
But freely from her prison soars her soul,
Upon the pinions of your battle song.
Isabel (to a Soldier).
Ascend the watch-tower which commands the field,
And thence report the progress of the fight.
Johan. Courage, my people! Tis the final struggle —
Another victory, and the foe lies low!
Isabel. What see’st thou?
Soldier. They ‘re already in close fight.
A furious warrior, on a Barbary steed,
In tiger’s skin, leads forward the gens d’armes.
Johan. That’s Count Dunois! on, gallant warrior!
Conquest goes with thee.
Soldier. The Burgundian duke
Attacks the bridge.
Isabel. Would that ten hostile spears
Might his perfidious heart transfix, the traitor!
Sold. Lord Fastolfe gallantly opposes him.
Now they dismount — they combat man to man,
Our people and the troops of Burgundy.
Isabel. Behold’st thou not the Dauphin? See’st thou not
The royal banner wave?
Soldier. A cloud of dust
Shrouds every thing. I can distinguish nought.
Johan. Had he my eyes, or stood I there aloft,
The smallest speck would not elude my gaze!
The wild fowl I can number on the wing,
And mark the falcon in his towering flight.
Sold. There is a fearful tumult near the trench;
The chiefs, it seems, the nobles, combat there.
Isabel. Still doth our banner wave?
Soldier. It proudly floats.
Johan. Could I look through the loopholes of the wall,
I with my glance the battle would control!
Sold. Alas! What do I see! Our general’s
Surrounded by the foe!
Isabel [points the dagger at Johanna). Die, wretch!
Soldier (quickly). He ‘s free’
The gallant Fastolfe in the rear attacks
The enemy — he breaks their serried ranks.
Isabel (withdrawing the. dagger).
There spoke thy angel!
Soldier. Victory! They fly!
Isabel. Who fly?
Soldier. The French and the Burgundians fly;
The field is cover’d o’er with fugitives.
Johan. My God! Thou wilt not thus abandon me!
Sold. Yonder they lead a sorely wounded knight;
The people rush to aid him — he ‘s a prince.
Isabel. One of our country, or a son of France?
Sold. They loose his helmet — it is Count Dunois
Johanna (seizes her fetters with convulsive violence).
And I am nothing but a fetter’d woman!
Sold. Look yonder! Who the azure mantle wears,
Border’d with gold?
Johanna. That is my Lord, the King.
Sold. His horse is restive, plunges, rears, and falls —
He struggles hard to extricate himself —
[Johanna accompanies these words with passionate movements.]
Our troops are pressing on in full career,
They near him, reach him — they surround him now.
Johan. Oh, have the heavens above no angels more!
Isabel (laughing scornfully).
Now is the time, Deliverer — now deliver!
Johanna (throws herself upon her knees, and prays with passionate violence).
Hear me, O God, in my extremity!
I In fervent supplication up to Thee,
Up to thy heaven above, I send my soul.
The fragile texture of a spider’s web,
As a ship’s cable, thou canst render strong;
Easy it is to thine omnipotence
To change these fetters into spiders’ webs —
Command it, and these massy chains shall fall,
And these thick walls be rent. Thou, Lord, of old
Didst strengthen Samson, when, enchain’d and blind,
He bore the bitter scorn of his proud foes.
Trusting in thee, he seized with mighty power
The pillars of his prison, bow’d himself,
And overthrew the structure.
Sold. The King is ta’en!
Johanna (springing up). Then God be gracious to me!
[She seizes her chains violently with both hands,
and breaks them asunder.
At the same moment
rushing upon the nearest soldier, she seizes his
sword and hurries out. All gaze after her,
transfixed with astonishment.]
[*] The Maid of Orleans, in The Works of Frederick Schiller: Historical Dramas etc., trans. from the German, Bohn’s Standard Library (London 1847), 432–35. Illustrations: (1) nineteenth-century rendering from Schiller’s Works. Illustrated by the Greatest German Artists, ed. J. G. Fischer, Hjalmar H. Boyesen, vol. 2 (Philadelphia 1883), following p. 380; (2) anonymous nineteenth-century rendering.
Click on the image below to open a gallery of illustrations to the play from the Berlinischer Damen-Kalender auf das Gemein-Jahr 1807:
Translation © 2015 Doug Stott