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The Life of Joan of Arc: Through a Lens similar to that of St. Perpetua

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Introduction Edit

A biography is essentially, the writing of a life. It is a story of someone, in which the author has the ability to choose what to include and exclude to portray a person’s life. Depending on the writer, various themes, styles, different techniques, important aspects of a person’s life are included based off of what they believe is important to know. It is up to the biographer on whether or not certain characteristics or attitudes of the person are illustrated throughout the writing. One of the most interesting biographies we read this fall was the recollection of the account written by St. Perpetua The Passion of St. Perpetua and Felcity. This biography is unique in its way as it is written in a diary form, including a chronicle of daily events that lead up to the deaths of two women. St. Perpetua, as an ancient biographer, has inspired me to look at Joan of Arc through a lens similar to the way she recounted her life story.


Introducing the Character the Biography is being written on Edit

Throughout biographies, the imagination of the writer is projected, however, there are a collection of facts included to understand that the biography is made up of real facts. Creating a life story on a person can be extremely difficult because there are many factors in life that account for the reasoning behind actions and events. After reading various biographies by ancient biographers, the most complex biography, in my opinion, that we have read in our course would be the account of St. Perpetua: The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity. Vibia Perpetua wrote her own account of her life story mainly of her prosecution. Throughout the course of a modern life story that I believe is significant and would have interested St. Perpetua would be the life of Joan of Arc. Joan of Arc and St. Perpetua were extremely similar in their actions as women to stand up for what they believed in and die for it. They were both Christian women who were publically tortured to death and died for faith. The events and days that led up to the honorable deaths of both women serve as great material for life stories, biographies. Therefore, Joan of Arc’s biography would have been parallel to that of St. Perpetua, illustrated in a more autobiographical form.

Beginning with the prologue, St. Perpetua includes background information on her visions to notify the reader of what is going on. Both women were saints. Joan became a patron saint of France. Perpetua’s account was of her martyrdom, it was detailed in her emotions, visions, and opinions of what she believed in and was based off of the history of the events that led to her death. Perpetua’s opinion is described as, “Let those take heed who judge the one power of the Holy Spirit according to the succession of the times; whereas those things which are later ought for their very lateness to be though the more eminent, according to the abundance of grace appointed for the last periods of time.” (Paragraph 1, Page1). I believe that Joan of Arc’s introduction to her account would have to retell a little more about her background information. She was born into a poor family in France. She sought the truth and questioned God after receiving visions. Her visions began at the age of twelve. (Sullivan 20). After seeing such strange visions, Joan of Arc took action. She did not sit around and keep her mouth shut. She, like Perpetua saw visions and was interrogated by them. Her life began and ended by interrogation, comparable to St. Perpetua. Joan’s account of this would not have been included in the prologue. Her background history would have been an important aspect into introducing the account of her visions and how she died. The most important part of her biography would have been the account of her death because even in death, she fought for what she believed in.

Early Life and Interpretation of Visions Edit

St. Perpetua’s account begins with describing her relationship with her father. She says, “Then because I was without my father for a few days I gave thanks unto the Lord; and I was comforted because of his absence” (Paragraph 3, page 2). Perpetua’s father pleaded that she save herself by going against her beliefs and faith. Similarly, Joan of Arc’s parents did not wish her to leave them and carry out her visionary prophecies. I believe that Joan of Arc would have made an incredible account of her life by adding a bit of drama to the situation. It is known that she failed her parents by leaving (Sullivan, 55). “When God commanded, it was necessary that it be done as God commanded it, if she had a hundred fathers and mothers and if she were the daughter of a king, nevertheless, she would have left” (Sullivan, 124). This illustrates Joan’s views of her relationship with her father. At the time period, her father would have disowned her for leaving to become a general in an army, fighting a war pretending to be a man. An account of hers may have looked like the following.


Sample Account #1:Then, I left, without looking back. They would never approve of my actions, and although they disown me, and no longer have faith in me, I will go on. I have faith in God. The voices will lead me, and I will be guided to bring peace to this country. This war must end, and I will be the one to help end it. My faith and love in God will always be there for me and will always come first."


This account can be analyzed as comparable to St. Perpetua as both women choose their faith over their families. They eventually both die for their faith. Joan of Arc’s father did not approve of her choice to leave her family, as poor as they were, for her life to accomplish military deeds (Sullivan, 43). St. Perpetua’s style and theme of using her father to illustrate her drive to continue to hold faith serves important to a unique biography of Joan of Arc. St. Perpetua’s father visits her many times before her trial, trying to convince her to choose her family, but she does not give in. “And I was grieved for my father’s case because he would not rejoice at my passion out of all my kin; and I comforted him saying: That shall be done at this tribunal, whatsoever God shall please” (Paragraph 6, Page 3). Perpetua illustrates in this biographical account of herself her beliefs. The way in which she words what she says to her father is a way that makes it seem less emotional. She is determined that she will not give up her faith. Faith will always come first for Joan of Arc and St. Perpetua, producing a motivating biographical account.

St. Perpetua and Joan of Arc both had visions. These visions lead them to have a stronger sense and belief in God and faith. The visions that Joan had would have been described in a manner that involved her emotional attachment and attitude towards them. This was the way that St. Perpetua described her visions. “I was amazed because he had never come into my mind save then…And straight away I knew that I was worth, and that I ought to ask for him” (Paragraph 7, Page 3). Here, it is seen that the voice of Dinocrates is heard and she describes her amazement after hearing it. The vision she sees of him coming from a dark place serve as a metaphor that Perpetua will get out of the dark place she is in. This way of writing out her vision can be used in how Joan may have written out her visions. Joan heard voices from St. Margaret, St. Catherine, St. Michael, and occasionally the angel Gabrielle (Sullivan, 25). She was convinced that she had visions from God that told her she had to fight for France and help win back what had been lost from the British in the Hundred Year’s War. Something like the following could have been written in her account.


Sample Account #2: And the voices began to murmur, and I saw them. Their beauty, and angelic forms, wander off onto a battlefield. The voices tell me of the fight I must make. I did not know who spoke to me at first, but thinking back it was the Saints. Saint Catherine and Margaret. Their voices made me wonder of what lay ahead of me next. They excited me."


This account could serve as a metaphor to Joan. The voices she hears, along with the vision of the Saints going out to fight, serve as a metaphor that she is supposed to be out on the battlefield fighting for France.

Slow Decline to Death Edit

St. Perpetua was a heretic; she saw visions of God helping her find the way to her faith. During her time period, her visions did not have to do with war over land, but war over faith. Joan fought in a war over land, but she also made a point that she as a woman could fight for her faith in God and that God would lead her to victory. “And he said to me: Be not afraid; I am here with you and labour together with you” (Paragraph 10, page 4). Perpetua uses her visions and what she hears to lead her, to make her stronger that what awaits for her is better. Joan of Arc was a heroine who eventually became a saint. She can be portrayed as dying one of the most honorable deaths throughout history. Joan died for her country, sacrificing her life for her people’s safety. She was courageous and her life story is extremely interesting. The significant events that occurred during her life were so interesting that I believe they would have been described in a manner similar to St. Perpetua. After 12 days of being in captivity, Joan was burned at the stake. An account of her feelings and emotions could have looked like the following.


Sample Account #3: After the twelfth day of captivity, I had accepted death and the penalties that lay ahead. I had a vision the night before that St. Catherine and St. Margaret along with Gabriel came to see her. The voices would prohibit myself from leaping from the tower. Taking my own life was not in my path of life. Saint Catherine begged me not to leap everyday I lay in prison.


Both women died in dramatic ways by never giving in and dying for their faith and beliefs. They both had trials, and died at very young ages. Joan of Arc died in a dramatic way. Both women did not give up; instead they “fought” for their beliefs even in the face of death. Perpetua says, “And I awoke; and I understood that I should fight, to with beast but against the devil; but I knew that mine was the victory.” (Paragraph 10, Page 2). Perpetua illustrates that she will fight for her beliefs, not her death, because her death awaits her.

Joan’s account would have ended and been described by someone who was watching her prosecution. However it would have been similar to Perpetua’s where it was in the lens of herself, but technically it was written by a by stander as they ended up dying. “Thus far I have written this, till the day before the games; but the dead of the games themselves let him write who will” Perpetua says, (paragraph 10 page 2). This is important, as this is how she ends her account. Solely its form is simple and short. Joan’s account would have been similarly ended. Someone else will finish the accounts because these women will be killed and won’t be able to recollect how they were killed.


Prosecution Edit

Leading the French Army to battle as a woman during the 1400’s was a great accomplishment. St. Perpetua fought for a religious revival in a similar matter; both women were driven by faith. After a year of fighting in the Hundred Year’s War, Joan’s life reached its pinnacle. She was captured, and taken away unknown of what her future held. Taken by the Burgundians outside of Compiegne, she was sold to the British forces (Sullivan, 8). She had done so much for the French, yet they went against her. Joan was questioned and trialed, similarly to St. Perpetua. The conclusion of Perpetua’s account begins with, “Now dawned the day of their victory, and they went forth from the prison into the amphitheatre as it were into heaven, cheerful and bright of countenance; if they trembled at all, it was for joy, not for fear. Perpetua followed behind, glorious of presence, as true spouse of Christ” (Paragraph 18, Page 6). This is a description of Perpetua walking to her death. She is described as courageous and strong, the way Joan of Arc would have been described. Joan of Arc’s account would have looked like the following:

Sample Account #4: And this is on that morning, after interrogation and the questions had been settled; she was led to a post with a crowd roaring behind her. Walking through the mobs, she looked accepting. Her faith stood right with her, protecting her from evil. She looked courageous; she had done everything she could do in her power to keep her faith. It was all that was left.

This account would have served a great purpose in the biography of the life of Joan of Arc because it helps set the scene. These writings give a picture and illustrate what it would have been like to watch the trials of Joan or Perpetua.

Conclusion Edit

Biographers are unique in their own way of writing. They shape their stories differently, as each biographer has a different imagination. Through the lens of St. Perpetua, an account of her life can be used to guide a biography of the life of Joan of Arc successfully. The significant themes included, and style used, along with the visions and the deaths of Joan of Arc can be portrayed through a similar lens to that of St. Perpetua. It can be concluded that as a biography, her story can be reflected most creatively through this lens.


BibliographyEdit

Sullivan, Karen. The Interrogation of Joan of Arc. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1999. Print.

Medieval Sourcebook: St.Perpetua: The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/perpetua.asp

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