[‘I do not profess to understand [her].’ Shaw must have written that some time after he wrote the preface to his famous play Saint Joan. There were few things that Shaw didn’t claim to understand, and judging from his almost 20,000 word preface—Shaw was notorious for writing prefaces that were almost as long as his plays—Joan was no exception. Many of the things he wrote in that preface tell us more about him and his idiosyncratic philosophy than about Joan, certainly about the Joan we know from the historical documents, which run to five volumes. What he says under the heading “Joan’s Good Looks” is oddly reasoned and peculiarly implausible. But even if much of what Shaw says can’t be trusted, it has to be conceded that he says it in an arresting, if sometimes very exasperating, fashion.]
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