Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Comparative Literature


Paul Oppenheimer

Subject Categories

Comparative Literature


Music; Opera; Shaw; Tchaikovsky; Verdi; Zhukovsky


At the dawn of the nineteenth century, Friedrich Schiller reinvented the image of Joan of Arc in his play, Die Jungfrau von Orleans, with consequences that affected theatrical representations of Joan for the rest of that century and well into the twentieth. Regarding representations of Joan of Arc to be found in Shakespeare or Voltaire as unworthy of her nobility, Schiller set out to create a more powerful character who suffers at the hands of fate but changes history by sheer force of will. He took as his allegorical model the characterization of Iphigenia made famous by Euripides in Iphigenia among the Taurians and Iphigenia in Aulis, in which the ancient Greek tragedian transformed his heroine from a pitiable victim of fate into a fearsome priestess with the power to reverse a familial curse and unite a nation at war. Schiller was equally bold with the historical facts of Joan of Arc's life. Inspired by Euripides, he introduced romance, paternal betrayal, and a rescue almost worthy of a deus ex machina. In Schiller's alternate version, the enemy soldier who captured her in history becomes the object of her captivated gaze. In place of condemnation by the church, she finds herself denounced by her own father. Instead of burning at the stake, she experiences a glowing vision of the heavens as she dies in the glory of battle. The effect was electric, and his play's enormous (albeit short-lived) popularity gave rise to numerous subsequent treatments, including a translation into Russian by Zhukovsky, an opera by Verdi, and an opera by Tchaikovsky. This dissertation examines the literary and aesthetic context in which Schiller created his drama and proposes several reasons for its notoriously ahistorical character. The fundamental, guiding concept here is 'sublime sanctity,' which I plan to argue is the product of Schiller's appropriation of Euripides' themes into his play. Sublime sanctity, as I plan to show, is the essential quality in Schiller's depiction of Joan, an idea that seizes the willing spectator and enables the play to achieve its intended force. I plan to argue, moreover, that subsequent versions only achieve their force by retaining key salient qualities that Schiller's Joan shares with Euripides' Iphigenia. Without them, these versions must fail; with them, audiences may be introduced to sublime sanctity itself, irrespective of their aesthetic dispositions. After establishing the ideas and principles underpinning sublime sanctity, the investigation will proceed chronologically, with an examination of other manifestations of Joan of Arc, primarily in the theater, either tracing their provenance directly to Schiller or, in the case of Shaw's Saint Joan, bearing a high degree of affinity with his creation. The discussion will return often to the fluctuating distinctions between classicism and romanticism, idealism and realism, philosophy and history, and the impact produced by these ideas on the creative artists, their works, and their audiences. I will attempt to account for the enduring appeal ' or just as often the lack thereof ' of the various plays and operas on the basis of these ideas throughout the nineteenth century across Europe. I plan to consider these ideas more as reflections of the circumstances in which the works were created than as the basis for assessing their dramatic impact. Ultimately, this dissertation contends that the dramatic value of each of the theatrical incarnations of Joan of Arc under discussion must be judged by the degree to which the various authors and composers preserve the salient elements of sublime sanctity and create an atmosphere for the audience to respond to it.