‘Call me Claude’
Female actors, impersonation, and cultural transmission
in Performing women
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The final chapter returns to the figure of the female actor, examining the performances of a young woman who claimed to be Joan of Arc and the implications of her role. In the spring of 1436, just five years after Joan’s execution in Rouen, an enigmatic young woman appeared to the citizens of Metz. Representing herself as the Pucelle, this actor asked the gathering audience to call her Claude; in the following days and weeks, Claude publicly assumed the Pucelle role through a series of ceremonies that formally recognised her as ‘Joan’. Interpretations of Claude’s playing of Joan have been dominated by histories – both medieval and modern – that read her actions as being the ‘false’ gestures of an impostor. This chapter approaches the role afresh, however, by considering embodied performance methods and contemporary reception to investigate how and why Claude persuaded her audiences to embrace a new iteration of Joan. Multiple women took part in the Pucelle scenario, using impersonation-based performance techniques to store and communicate Joan’s identity and an associated body of knowledge. Like the Saint Catherine actor, Claude’s example reframes ‘exceptional’ female actors as instead being exemplary: performing women represent the visible face of poorly documented, yet widespread, performance strategies.

Performing women

Gender, self, and representation in late medieval Metz

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