Saint Joan of the Stockyards

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Saint Joan of the Stockyards
Written by Bertolt Brecht
Date premiered 30 April 1959 (1959-04-30)
Place premiered Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg
Original language German
Subject Capitalism and religion
Genre Non-Aristotelian / Epic drama
Setting Chicago

Saint Joan of the Stockyards (German: Die Heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe) is a play written by the German modernist playwright Bertolt Brecht between 1929 and 1931, after the success of his musical The Threepenny Opera and during the period of his radical experimental work with the Lehrstücke. It is based on the musical that he co-authored with Elisabeth Hauptmann, Happy End (1929).[1] In this version of the story of Joan of Arc, Brecht transforms her into "Joan Dark," a member of the "Black Straw Hats" (a Salvation Army-like group) in 20th-century Chicago. The play charts Joan's battle with Pierpont Mauler, the unctuous owner of a meat-packing plant. Like her predecessor, Joan is a doomed woman, a martyr and (initially, at least) an innocent in a world of strike-breakers, fat cats, and penniless workers. Like many of Brecht's plays it is laced with humor and songs as part of its epic dramaturgical structure and deals with the theme of emancipation from material suffering and exploitation.[2]

The play was broadcast on Berlin Radio on the 11 April 1932, with Carola Neher as Joan and Fritz Kortner as Mauler. The cast also included Helene Weigel, Ernst Busch, Peter Lorre, Paul Bildt and Friedrich Gnass. The play did not receive its first theatrical production until the 30 April 1959, at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, after Brecht's death. Brecht had asked Gustaf Gründgens to direct, with scenic design by Caspar Neher and music by Siegfried Franz. Brecht's daughter Hanne Hiob played Joan.[1]

Brecht wrote two other versions of the Joan of Arc story: The Visions of Simone Machard (1942) and The Trial of Joan of Arc of Proven, 1431 (1952).


  • Joan Dark, lieutenant in the Black Straw Hats
  • Pierpont Mauler, meat king
  • Cridle, a meat packer
  • Graham, a meat packer
  • Lennox, a meat packer
  • Meyers, a meat packer
  • Slift, a broker
  • Mrs Luckerniddle
  • Gloomb, a worker
  • Paul Snyder, major in the Black Straw Hats
  • Martha, a Black Straw Hat
  • Jackson, a lieutenant in the Black Straw Hats
  • Mulberry, a landlord
  • A Waiter
  • Meat Packers
  • Wholesalers
  • Stockbreeders
  • Brokers
  • Speculators
  • Black Straw Hats
  • Workers
  • Labour Leaders
  • The Poor
  • Detectives
  • Newspapermen
  • Newsboys
  • Soldiers
  • Passers-by

References in popular culture[edit]

  • In Benoît Jacquot's 2006 film, L'Intouchable, the main character, Jeanne (Isild Le Besco), relinquishes the lead role of Saint Joan of the Stockyards to find her father in India.
  • In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, Ted recalls seeing Barney's fictitious wife Betty in a production of Saint Joan of the Stockyards, which he refers to by its original German name.
  • Lars von Trier's 2003 film, Dogville, is a loose adaptation of the play.


  1. ^ a b Willett (1959, 36–37).
  2. ^ Squiers, Anthony (2014). An Introduction to the Social and Political Philosophy of Bertolt Brecht: Revolution and Aesthetics. Amsterdam: Rodopi. p. 41. ISBN 9789042038998. 


  • Squiers, Anthony. An Introduction to the Social and Political Philosophy of Bertolt Brecht: Revolution and Aesthetics. Amsterdam: Rodopi. 2014. ISBN 9789042038998.
  • Willett, John. 1959. The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht: A Study from Eight Aspects. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-34360-X.