Drama Analysis: Arms and The Man
The Title of the Arms and The Man
Arms and The Man was first published in 1898 as part of the second volume of Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant.The Arms and The Man is taken from the opening lines of John Dryden’s translation of Virgil’s epic The Aeneid. Dryden’s translates Virgil’s Arma virmaque cano as ‘Arms and the man I sing’. Virgil’s poem does indeed sing of several battles, and of a hero, Aeneas, who led the defeated Trojans to Rome to found there a new nation. Shaw’s play, set in the early days of a new nation Bulgaria, attempts to distinguish between true and false concepts of heroism, virtue, honour and national dignity. Shaw’s ‘Man’ is Bluntschli, as the last words of the play remind us. Bluntschli too shows the way forward to a new nation. But his morality and courage are very different from Aeneas’ and he is highly suspicious of idealism. For Shaw, ancient Roman concepts and standards, among others, have had their day, and Bluntschli is his modern Aeneas-the ‘Man’ of the new age.
In the title of his play, Shaw employs irony, taken from the opening line of the epic poem “The Aeneid” written by the Roman poet Virgil in 19 BC-” Of the arms and the man I say …-in which “Virgil glorifies war. In this play, though, Shaw ‘s intention is to attack the romantic idea of war.
Summary and Themes of Arms and The Man
Arms and the Man deals with two themes: one is war: and the other is love and marriage.
1. The theme of War-
Arms and the Man deals with two themes: one is war: and the other is love and marriage. However, these two themes have skilfully been interwoven to produce a unified impression on audiences and readers. Shaw’s purpose in this play was to explode two myths. He wanted to expose to ridicule the false the romantic notions about heroism in the war, and he also wanted to expose to ridicule the false romantic notions about love and marriage. It had traditionally been believed that the soldiers participating in a battle were the heroic man who fought bravely and fearlessly. But Shaw wanted to show that the soldiers who fought in a battle were human beings, subject to all the frailties of human nature. Thus, in Arms and The Man, Captain Bluntschli, who has been fighting bravely on the battlefield, has subsequently to flee from the battlefield in order to save his life. When he appears before Raina, he is in a pitiable condition. He is not only felling afraid of death, but he is also extremely hungry and extremely tired. Bluntschli here does not appear to be a hero but an anti-hero. then there is another man, by the man of Sergius, who is thought by his fiancee to be a great deed which he had performed on the battlefield was not a sign of his heroism but a sign of his folly.
2. The theme of Love and Marriage-
The traditional view of love and marriage had been that love was something romance and something divine and that marriage was the union of two hearts pledged to each other in a life-long relationship.
Lovers had always felt as if they were natives of a fairyland, and that they were destined to love each other throughout their lives, and not only to love each other but to adore and worship each other. This traditional view of love is here proved to be utterly false. Sergius, the romantic lover, had been adoring a romantic girl Raina who, in her turn, had been adoring Sergius. The two of them were engaged to each other; and each cherished romance notions about the other. But then the surprising thing happens. Sergius falls in love with Raina’s maidservant whose name is Louka; and Raina herself transfers her love from Sergius to Bluntschli, the Swiss soldier who entered her bedroom in a dilapidated and pitiable condition and whose plight was at that time most wretched and miserable. Such is the reality of love. Love is not necessarily constant. love can change. Raina finds marriage with Bluntschli to be a more attractive proposition, and Sergius feels that he would be happier with Louka who is more beautiful and exciting than Raina because Raina had been talking to his of the higher love or spiritual love which he had found to be something tiresome.
An escaping leader of the Serbian army narrowly climbs through the bedroom window of Raina Petkoff to avoid arrest, but by the name of Captain Bluntschli, he turns out to be a Swiss mercenary officer. Raina scolds him for being timid and reminds him of her fiance’s courage, Sergius, a cavalry officer who led the Bulgarian victory.
Bluntschli tells her of the dumb nature of the fighting charge of Sergius and then argues that chocolates are more useful in combat than weapons, a remark that offends Raina. When he reveals that he is terrified and unable to die, he scares her, and even more. When soldiers come searching for the run-away, however, Raina hides the fugitive, and only her maid, Louka, is aware of her actions. Four months later, Act II happens as Raina ‘s father and fiance returned after the battle.
The two men speak of a young Swiss officer who had impressed them with his practical approach to the soldiers’ exchange. The men also laugh about the officer’s escape tale and how a young girl gave him shelter in her bedroom, with little suspicion that this had happened in Major Petkoff’s own home. In the meantime, Sergius flirted with Louka in secret.
Captain Bluntschli suddenly turns up to return an overcoat Raina had given him for his escape, and she panics when her father asks him to stay for lunch. In Act III, while Bluntschli helps the men prepare to move soldiers, Raina is worried that her father will discover the picture she had secretly left for her “Chocolate Cream Soldier” in the coat pocket. He invites him to a duel after Sergius learns the connection between Raina and Bluntschli, but Raina refuses and shares her true feelings for. Bluntschli. Louka succeeds in securing Sergius for herself and Major Petkoff and his wife consent to marry Bluntschli to Raina.
More About the Play
The Arms and Man conflict is about competing views and ideas: Romantic or idealistic conceptions of war and love that Raina retains and the practical Bluntschli ‘s image of the war and the realistic side of love and marriage as poured by Louka.
Shaw wanted what appeared a trivial little small dispute between countries as the starting point for his ant-war play. His warnings have been prophetic; Nevertheless, after the Balkan conflicts in the late 19th century finally led to
World War I of 1914-1918. It was only through the senseless horror of this
conflict that the British people and the rest of the world come to know the stupidity of their romantic vision of war.
The comedy of the play depends on the contrasts of characters, unexpected turns of events, mistaken identities, surprising opinions, irony, wit and satire.