New Play’s ‘Non-Binary’ Joan of Arc Character Detracts From Saint’s Heroism and Dignity, Catholics Say

Shakespeare’s Globe theater is reinventing the story of the French-Catholic heroine, to the dismay of critics.

St. Joan of Arc is depicted on horseback in an illustration from a 1504 manuscript.
St. Joan of Arc is depicted on horseback in an illustration from a 1504 manuscript. (photo: Wiki Commons / public domain)

Shakespeare’s Globe theater is reinventing the story of St. Joan of Arc in an upcoming production called I, Joan, in which the French-Catholic heroine will be portrayed as a non-binary “queer” character who refers to herself with “they/them” pronouns. 

The news has prompted a backlash in Catholic circles, with several taking to Twitter to voice their dismay, saying the interpretation detracts from St. Joan of Arc’s heroic life and erases the dignity of womanhood.

The Globe announced its decision Thursday in a tweet

“Our new play I, Joan shows Joan as a legendary leader who uses the pronouns ‘they/them.’ We are not the first to present Joan in this way, and we will not be the last. We can't wait to share this production with everyone and discover this cultural icon.”

In a statement Friday, the play’s artistic director, Michelle Terry, said, “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.”

Terry argued that play adaptations make “anything possible” because “theatres do not deal with ‘historical reality.’”

The play, which is described by the theater as “queer and full of hope,” opens on Aug. 25 and will feature actress Isobel Thom in the leading role. Thom identifies as non-binary.

The play will follow Joan’s role in the Hundred Years’ War between France and England, although it is unclear what historical events will be included. 

To Catholics, St. Joan of Arc is a symbol of chastity and courageous femininity, as the woman who sacrificed her life for the pursuit of truth — leading some to speak out against how far the production takes artistic liberties.

“Please stop saying amazing women aren’t really women,” Abigail Favale, a Catholic professor and expert on gender studies and feminist literary criticism, wrote. Favale is the author of The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory (Ignatius Press, 2022), which approaches gender from a perspective informed by Church teaching.

The theater claims that Shakespeare himself “did not write historically accurate plays” and “play[ed] with identity, power, with the idea of pleasure, and with all sides of an argument.”

The Globe’s move to rewrite Joan of Arc’s history is part of a push to promote “LGBTQ” themes in the performing arts. In New York City, Roundabout Theatre Co. on Broadway has announced that the beloved Broadway musical 1776 will take the stage on an international tour solely depicting the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution by “actors who identify as female, transgender, and non-binary.”

Wrote one critic: “History be damned.”