Skip over navigation

Joan of Arc

Study Questions

Execution

Review Test

Describe Joan's early years in Domremy.

Joan grew up much like any peasant girl, though she did both men and women's work and was known for her skill and strength. Joan learned her extreme piety from her mother's teaching and example, and may have had conflicts with her father as she got older.

How might Joan's "voices" be explained scientifically?

Some people have attempted to explain the voices as hallucinations that Joan delusionally believed to be saints and angels. Under these interpretations, the messages Joan heard would really be ones she had come up with herself, subconsciously, which were now communicated to her conscious mind via visions and voices. Certainly, hallucinations are not all that uncommon, and are often intense and are commonly perceived within a religious idiom. Young adults are especially susceptible, although visual hallucinations are much more common than hallucinations of sound. If Joan did hallucinate, she experienced especially well-developed and recurrent hallucinations that combined elements of both sight and sound. During her trial she even said that she had seen a large number of angels "in the guise of certain very tiny things." The voices were always more clear to Joan when she was alone, which might explain why she became increasingly isolated from friends, preferring to spend time by herself as she became older. Initially, Joan heard simple and brief messages, but over time these became longer and more detailed. Ultimately, she may even have been able to carry on conversations with the voices. All of this follows models of hallucination development that psychologists have witnessed in the present day. Such hallucinations are often triggered by some trauma, and 1425 was a particularly tumultuous year for Domremy and Joan. The burning of Domremy in 1425 may have helped focus Joan's mind on the war, and to suggest to her the mission of ending the war. The typical adolescent tumult Joan was the going through, including her conflicts with her father, who was then trying to marry Joan off, might also help explain the voices she heard. Whatever their nature, Joan took the voices seriously and they had a dramatic impact on her life.

Why did Joan call Charles the "Dauphin" even though his father's death effectively made him King?

Although most people considered Charles to be King, Joan referred to him as "Dauphin" (heir apparent) because he had not yet had a coronation and been anointed at Reims, where all French kings were traditionally crowned. The ceremony could not take place because English and Burgundian forces controlled the regions around the town. When Joan's military victories allowed Charles to journey there, however, and undergo the traditional ceremony, she happily called him "King."

Describe the situation at the Siege of Orleans.

Since 1428, the pro-Charles city of Orleans had been cut off from communication with the outside world by a series of English forts surrounding the city. Joan, La Hire, and Gilles de Rais led Charles's army to break this stalemate, thus doing much to clear the path to Reims.

Why did many of Charles's advisors dislike Joan?

At first they just found her strange, but soon her successes made them jealous. Also, her increasing popularity with the army and the masses of peasants as she won more and more battles made them perceived Joan as a potential threat to their own power. Moreover, transgressions of traditional gender roles are rarely looked upon favorably.

Why did the Anglo-Burgundians accuse Joan of witchcraft?

Joan seemed to meet the standard description: she behaved strangely, she heard mysterious "voices" in her head, she liked to go off by herself for long periods of time, she had unusually good luck, and she usually wore men's clothing. (Indeed, not only had she assumed men's clothing; she had assumed a man's duties and "manly" characteristics, bravely commanding armies and advising male authority figures and even the King himself. Thus in being called a "witch," Joan joined a series of women throughout history who suffered this label for their attempts to transcend traditional gender roles.) But while some of the authorities took the accusation seriously, the charge was largely a propaganda move meant to destabilize Joan's support base among the French commoners.

Why did the French win the Battle of Patay?

The location of the English near Patay was discovered when a stag ran through their hidden camp. It caused such a noisy commotion that nearby French scouts easily pinpointed the English location, giving the French the benefit of a surprise attack. One of the things the Hundred Years' War proved was the decisive impact of good archers in battle. The English longbowmen were famous for their deadly accuracy, and their presence always greatly helped the English. When La Hire decimated the English archers at Patay, this alone was almost enough to ensure French victory. Indeed, at Patay more than at Orleans, it was mostly the leadership of commanders like La Hire, and not that of Joan herself, that won the day; Joan seemed to serve as a good luck charm, but she was not the one responsible for the French army's clever tactics. Nonetheless, Joan started to unrealistically take full credit for the victories in the letters she dictated at this time, and by this point the French eagerly believed her claims.

Why did Charles quickly recall Joan and the Duke of Alencon from their assault on English-controlled Paris?

Charles was always very cautious, and he felt that the army was overextended and vulnerable this far north. Also, since he couldn't afford to pay the large number of troops Joan's popularity had drawn, he wanted to head back to Gien and disband the army. Finally, the superstitious Charles was convinced that the breaking of Joan's "magical" sword had been a bad omen that doomed any force she commanded to defeat.

Why did Joan start losing battles after Paris?

Although the battle at Paris constituted a near-victory, its consideration as a defeat caused the quick dissipation of Joan's mystique. Soldiers no longer had the same confidence in their invincibility when Joan was present. Since Joan no longer gave the troops the same morale-boost as before, and her strategic and tactical abilities had never evidenced brilliance, she was never quite the same military commander she had been prior to Paris.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us