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Shakespeare’s Globe boasts use of ‘they/them pronouns’ for play about ‘non-binary’ St. Joan of Arc

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The world-famous Globe Threatre, once home to playwright William Shakespeare, has announced a production about Joan of Arc in which the young, female saint is “non-binary” and “queer.”

“I, Joan,” a play about the life and death of St. Joan of Arc, is slated to begin its run in late August.

In the play, St. Joan of Arc will be presented as “non-binary” and “gender non-conforming.”

“Theatres do not deal with ‘historical reality.’ Theatres produce plays, and in plays, anything can be possible,” the Globe boasted on its website

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“Shakespeare did not write historically accurate plays. He took figures of the past to ask questions about the world around him. Our writers of today are doing no different, whether that’s looking at Ann Boleyn, Nell Gwynn, Emilia Bassano, Edward II or Joan of Arc.”

Joan of Arc, born a farm girl in rural France in the 15th century, claimed to have received messages and guidance from God that would help the French kingdom push back invading English forces. 

Joan claimed to receive divine instruction through multiple visions of saints and angels. Her advice and leadership on the battlefield led the French to an unlikely victory and saved the country from the English.

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Joan is often depicted wearing men’s clothing and armor for battle normally worn only by men. 

However, the saint always referred to herself as a woman and insisted on being referred to as “Joan the Maiden.”

People walk past Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in central London Aug. 24, 2020. 
(Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

The Globe’s statement continued, “History has provided countless and wonderful examples of Joan portrayed as a woman. This production is simply offering the possibility of another point of view. That is the role of theatre: to simply ask the question ‘imagine if?'”

Despite the acknowledgement of taking historical liberties, The Globe has not backed down from categorizing the young saint as “queer.” 

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The Globe published alongside its announcement a companion essay in which Dr. Kit Heyam, a “trans awareness trainer” and “heritage practitioner,” claimed Joan of Arc was indeed consciously making a statement about her gender by wearing men’s battle armor while repelling invading forces.

Interior of the Globe Theatre London, associated with William Shakespeare. 

Interior of the Globe Theatre London, associated with William Shakespeare. 
(Photo 12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“The pragmatic explanations typically offered up for Joan’s gender nonconformity — military practicality, gender stereotypes, protection from sexual assault — make sense from the vantage point of a society where what we wear and how we act aren’t understood to have any automatic connection to our identity,” Heyam wrote. “But, in fact, ‘who we are’ and ‘what we do’ have never been easy to separate or tease apart.”

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Heyam went on to claim that Joan’s male clothing and leadership on the battlefield were not only “practical” but a “spiritually motivated” act of “gender nonconformity.”

“For Joan, gender nonconformity was clearly never just a practical matter,” Heyam wrote. “Joan is also part of a long and cross-cultural history of people who have experienced their gender nonconformity as spiritually motivated.”

Hayem went on to accuse other historical figures of secret queer self-identities, including Queen Elizabeth I.

Roman Catholic saint Joan of Arc (1412 - 1431) entering Orléans, France, 1429. From an original engraving by W. Hulland after a painting by Henri Scheffer.

Roman Catholic saint Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431) entering Orléans, France, 1429. From an original engraving by W. Hulland after a painting by Henri Scheffer.
(Kean Collection/Getty Images)

The Globe has also apparently refused to refer to the historical Joan as a woman in its statements.

Instead, both the character and historical person Joan of Arc are referred to as “they” in all instances in The Globe’s statements and essays.

“I, Joan” opens Aug. 25.

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