Joan of Arc

 

In the play of "Henry VI," Part 1, is a scene (Act 3, Scene 3) in which Joan of Arc has an interview with the Duke of Burgundy, and asks him to abandon the cause of the English and join the French King.There is no historical record that this interview ever took place.

In 1780 someone in France printed a letter, dated 17th July, 1429, written by Joan of Arc to the Duke of Burgundy, and this letter contains a passionate appeal to the Duke to take precisely the identical course urged upon him in the play. It is clear that the existence of this letter was unknown in England in Shakespeare's time---if it had been it was so imporant that it would have been mentioned by Hall or Holinshed or some other English chronicler.

 

The letter appears also to have been unknown in France until it was discovered and printed 350 years after it was written. Is it a coincidence that somehow or other the author of "Henry VI" was acquainted with an important fact in French history that was not discovered until more than 200 years after the date of this play? Not the slightest evidence exists to show that Will Shaksper was ever in France, but the author "Shakespeare" was in France and visited the scenes made memorable in the play, and he may have personally gathered some oh his material from the French and Burgundian national archives.

 

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