Short summary - The Lark - Jean Anouilh. L'Alouette

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Lark
Jean Anouilh. L'Alouette

In 1429, Joan of Arc, a young peasant woman from Domréme, took command of the French army and in a year changed the course of the Hundred Years War between England and France. The turning point was the lifting of the siege from Orleans. Inspired by Jeanne, the soldiers won a series of glorious victories and recaptured a part of France, captured by the British.
However, many did not like the rapid rise of the girl from the people; becoming a victim of betrayal, Jeanne is captured by the supporters of the British and appears before the church court. In this difficult hour for her, the viewer meets the heroine of the play. The process has been going on for nine months in Rouen: the English Count Warwick, the French Bishop Cauchon, Fiscal and the Inquisitor are trying at all costs to defame Joan and force her to renounce her deeds.

The judges invite Jeanne to tell her story, and she is immersed in memories. As a child, she first heard the voices of the saints. At first, they urged her to be obedient and pray to God, and when she grew up, they ordered her to go to the aid of the king and return to him the kingdom, torn to pieces by the British. Jeanne's father, learning that his daughter is going to become the head of the army and go on a campaign to save France, enrages and beats her. Mother also does not approve of Jeanne's intentions. In tears, the girl complains to the voices of the saints ...
Inspired from above, Jeanne goes to the nearest town of Vaucouleurs, goes to the commandant Baudricourt and asks him for a man's suit, a horse and an armed escort to Chinon, where the residence of the Dauphin Karl is located, with whom she must certainly meet.
Baudricourt is not averse to having fun with a pretty girl, but to give her a horse and so on - no, thank you! However, Jeanne manages to persuade the proud soldier. Everyone knows that part of the French nobility went over to the side of the British. Orleans is under siege, and the French soldiers are completely disheartened by the constant defeat. They need someone to inspire them. And this person will be she, Jeanne. And Baudricourt, who sent Jeanne to the court, will be noticed and awarded. Struck by her reasoning, Baudricourt sends the girl to Chinon.

In a gloomy Chinon castle sits an uncrowned king - Dauphin Karl. The king, his father, was insane, the son wonders whether it is better to be a bastard or a madman. Doubting about his origin, Karl turned into a pawn in the hands of various political parties.
Karl is informed that some country girl wants to see him: she declares that she has come to save France and crown him. The Dauphin decides to accept her - it won't get any worse. Moreover, you can also laugh: the simpleton has never seen the king, so he will put a page on the throne, and he will be lost in the crowd of courtiers. So let's see if she really was sent down to him from above, or is it just a fool.
Jeanne enters the throne room unmistakably finds the Dauphin. She tells him that the Lord ordered her to stand at the head of the French army, lift the siege from Orleans and crown him at Rheims. The astonished Karl drives out all the courtiers and is left alone with Jeanne. He wants to know why God did not remember him earlier? “God does not love those who are afraid,” the girl simply answers. Shocked by the simplicity and clarity of her answers, Karl appoints her as the commander of the French army. Jeanne's memories are interrupted by Warwick. He states that Karl simply used Jeanne as a talisman. Although - he is forced to admit - indeed, Orleans was liberated, and the French unexpectedly won a number of significant victories. Maybe God helped them, or maybe "a lark singing in the sky of France over the heads of the infantrymen ...". But now the lark is caught - Jeanne is in captivity, her voices have ceased, the king and court have turned away from her, and in ten years no one will remember this story at all.

Bishop Cauchon and the fiscal want to confuse Joan with insidious questions. Does she believe in miracles performed by the Lord? Yes, he does, but the main miracles are performed by a person with the help of courage and intelligence given to him by God. Cauchon accuses Jeanne of loving fighting. No, it's just that war is work, and in order to expel the British from France, you have to work hard. One of her captains, Laire, appears in front of Jeanne's eyes. Now she knows that the glutton, blasphemer and bully Laire is just as pleasing to God as bishops and saints, because he is simple-minded and fights for a just cause. Jeanne is sure: Laire will come and free her. No, Cauchon answers her, Laire became the leader of the gang and now trades in robbery on the roads of Germany. Seeing how the girl was shocked by the betrayal of her comrade in arms, Cauchon insinuatingly invites Jeanne to renounce her votes and her victories. “I will never deny what I have done,” the girl proudly declares.
The ominous voice of the Inquisitor is heard. He points to the main enemy of the church - a person who believes in his own strength, obsessed with love for people. The inquisitor demands to excommunicate Jeanne from the church, hand her over to the secular authorities and execute her.

The Rouen executioner enters the scene. But Joan is not afraid of him, but of excommunication, because for her the church and God are inseparable. The speech of Karl further increases the suffering of Jeanne. Having become king, he no longer needs her help, on the contrary, he is unhappy with the reminders that he owes his crown to a simple village shepherdess, who, in addition, is going to be declared a heretic. No, no, he doesn't even want to hear about her anymore.
Jeanne finally falls in spirit - everyone who was dear to her turned away from her. She agrees to wear a woman's dress and renounce all her accomplishments. Not knowing how to write, Jeanne puts a cross under the abdication. Warwick congratulates Cauchon: the execution of Jeanne would be "a triumph of the French spirit", and there is "something pathetic" in the abdication. Indeed, little lonely Jeanne in a prison cell evokes compassion. She cries out in vain to the voices, they are silent, they do not want to help her. Warwick comes to congratulate Jeanne. In fact, he is deeply sympathetic to her, he absolutely does not want to execute her, it is only commoners who let themselves be killed for nothing.
Warwick's words deeply hurt the soul of the girl: she herself is from the people! Jeanne suddenly realizes that she made a mistake: she can never forget what she did! Let the voices be silent - she takes care of everything! She refuses to renounce!
Shouts are heard: “Into the fire, heretic! Death!" All the actors sitting on the stage grab armfuls of brushwood and build a fire. Joan is tied to a post. She asks to give her a cross, and some English soldier hands her a cross linked from two sticks. Someone is setting fire to brushwood, Jeanne boldly and directly looks in front of her.

Suddenly, with a loud cry, Baudricourt rushes into the stage. You can't finish the play, because they haven't played the coronation yet! “The real end of Jeanne's story is joyful. It's a lark in the sky! This is Jeanne in Reims, in all the splendor of her glory! "
Everyone rushes to take away the fire. Jeanne is brought her sword, banner and cloak. The bells are ringing, the organ sounds. Everyone kneels down. The Archbishop places the crown on Charles' head. Jeanne stands erect, smiling at the heavens, as in a picture from a history reader for schoolchildren. "The story of Jeanne d'Arc is a story with a happy ending!"