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12 Aug, 2022 13:54

Joan of Arc is non-binary in new play

The story of the legendary historical figure is “alive, queer and full of hope,” Shakespeare's Globe Theater insists
Joan of Arc is non-binary in new play

Shakespeare's Globe Theater in London is facing backlash from academics and feminists after announcing that Joan of Arc, a national heroine and patron saint of France, will be portrayed as non-binary in a new production.

The play, which opens at the London-based theater on August 25, “violates the historical reality,” Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent, told the Daily Mail on Thursday.

“It’s plundering history to legitimize views in the here and now,” Furedi said, adding that for French patriots, Joan of Arc “is someone very special. Her role was all the more heroic because she was a woman.”

The Globe earlier revealed that its upcoming play ‘I, Joan’ would show Joan of Arc “as a legendary leader who uses the pronouns ‘they/them’.”

“Rebelling against the world’s expectations, questioning the gender binary, Joan finds their power and their belief spreads like fire,” the website preview reads.

According to the theater, its portrayal of Joan of Arc, who led the French resistance against the English invaders in the 15th century but ended up being captured and burnt at the stake, will be “alive, queer and full of hope.”

Playwright Charlie Josephine, who identifies as non-binary, argued that Joan of Arc was “transgressing gender at a time when it was really dangerous,” which makes her relatable.

“I was assigned female at birth. I'm non-binary, I'm from a working class background. I've often felt like I've had something to say and haven't been given permission to say it,” Josephine claimed, adding that the play is a “too good to be true” opportunity to share this experience with audiences.

The theater ’s artistic director Michelle Terry insisted that the production was “simply offering the possibility of another point of view.” According to Terry, “Shakespeare was not afraid of discomfort, and neither is the Globe.”

But not everybody was happy with such a portrayal of Joan of Arc, with campaign group Women’s Place UK saying in a statement, “women are getting really tired of being erased from history and having our achievements diminished.”

“Joan of Arc was an astonishing woman who rebelled against the authoritarian oppression she faced for being female,” the group said.

Feminist writer Victoria Smith accused the Globe of “sexism” for suggesting that “gender non-conforming women aren't really women” through its play.

Former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe told the Daily Mail that William Shakespeare likely “would have clutched his head in disbelief” if he saw what’s being staged at the Globe now.

“Joan of Arc was a woman. There is no evidence she thought of herself in any other way,” Widdecombe, accusing the theater of “de-womanising” the French warrior and “effectively re-writing history.”

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