Arms and the Man


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  • Comment on the title of the drama ‘Arms and the Man’.

Or Comment on the sources of the drama ‘Arms and the Man’.

Ans: Bernard Shaw borrowed the title from the opening line of Virgil’s great epic Aeneid, which reads as follows: “Arma virumque cano”, meaning “Of arms and the man I sing”. Shaw’s obvious purpose was to satirise and puncture the inflated balloons—the romantic ideas about war and love.
  • What is “drama of ideas”? Would you classify ‘Arms and the Man’ as a drama of ideas?

Or, Is ‘Arms and the Man’ a problem play?
Or, is ‘Arms and the Man’ a radicalist propaganda?

Ans: A drama of ideas or a problem play concerns itself with the problems of life—the maladies of society. The dramatist presents those vividly before the audience/readers with a view to bringing about radical changes in the real situation. Arms and the Man can definitely be classified as a drama of ideas since it deal s with the undesirable presentation of the romantic concept of love and war.
  • Do you consider Bluntschli a Shavian hero/an anti-hero/numeric hero/anti-romantic hero?

Ans: Bernard Shaw deliberately created Bluntschli as an anti-hero or unheroic hero, who exposes the false romantic ideas of love and war. He brings all the characters round back to the practical problems of life, doing which, he shows that he is truly heroic in the sense that happiness actually lies in that. He is radically rational and logical in his actions and views about life.

  • Character of Sergius: a foil to Bluntschli/a Byronic hero/romantic fool/romantic idiot.

Ans: G. B. Shaw created Saranoff Sergius as a romantic type made famous by the craze of Byronism in Europe, as a foil to Bluntschli in an obvious attempt to expose the hollowness of the conception of love and war, which, the character of the former believes to live by. Shaw shows that, in reality, Sergius is a romantic fool, a coward, full of contradictions. In spite of his higher love for Raina, he flirts with a maid-servant louka. In practical affairs, he fails utterly.

  • Character of Raina:

Ans: Shaw presents Raina as a young girl with as head full of false conceptions of love and war. But very quickly she learns the truth as she comes in contact with Bluntschli whom she rightly chooses as her husband free from all the illusions. But above all, Shaw endows her with all the attributes of a woman, of a mother, which Shaw later on necessary for the creation of Superman.

  • Character of Louka:

Ans: From the very beginning Louka knows her worth and judges all other characters correctly. With her physical charm, practical calculations and feminine tricks, she succeeds in winning over Sergius who in the beginning looked upon her as a mere maid at his disposal for flirting. Ultimately she boldly stands upright against the whole family to save her honour and win her object, Sergius.

  • Character of Nicola:

Ans: Louka flirtingly describes Nicola as a man with the “soul of a servant”. It is true that he is of servile nature; yet Bluntschli describes him as the “ablest man in Bulgaria”. He is free all the illusions. He leads his life calculating for specific purpose of achieving his financial freedom. Above all, he knows himself and others very well.

  • Raina: Some soldiers are afraid to die.

The Man: All of them…It is our duty to live as long as we can.
Compare and contrast the views of the speakers.
Or, Why does the man say that “It is our duty to live as long as we can”?
Or, How does Bluntschli counter the views of Raina?

Ans: Raina, under the influence of her romantic conception of heroism, mocks at Bluntschli. She thinks as he was afraid to die, he escaped from the field. Bluntschli, an experienced soldier, tells her that everybody is afraid to die, and that no soldier should sacrifice a precious possession as life for a false conviction in heroism.
  • “You can tell the young ones by their wildness…The Old ones come bunched up under the numbers and guard”

Who is the speaker? Why does he say all these?
Ans: Prepare the answer yourself.

  • I thought you might have remembered the great scene where Ernani flying…an old Castilion noble”.

Who is the speaker? How does she find similarity between the conditions of Ernani and Bluntschli?

Ans: In the opera Ernani by the Italian composer G. Verdi, the hero Ernani runs away from his enemies and takes refuge in the castle of his rival in love, Ruy Yomet, who refuses to hand over him to his enemies. Raina thinks that Bluntschli’s taking refuge in Petkoff’s house is comparable with that of Ernani.
  • Character of Catherine:

Ans: Catherine, a housewife of over forty years, is a typical fashionable ragging wife, who, in spite of her false romantic conceptions of love, war, patriotism and aristocracy, bears some secrets with herself. She is also a typically concerned mother, whose aim in life is now to marry her daughter off to a rich aristocratic groom.

  • Character of Major Petkoff:

Ans: Petkoff is a typical husband about fifty. His life in the military has made him a coarse and proud man who can easily be duped by the women at home. He proves to be an affectionate husband and father.

  • “What a man! Is he a man!”

Who said this and about whom? Why did he say so?

Ans: After his engagement with Raina is made final, Bluntschli gives necessary instructions for sending off the infantry of Timok division. He requests Sergius not to get married until he returns and he promises to arrive “punctually at five in the evening on Tuesday fortnight.” Sergius is amazed at his businesslike attitude and almost superhuman efficiency. That is why he says this about him.
  • What is the kind of morality G. B. Shaw wants to propagate through the play?

Ans: Shaw believes that moral ideals are reflections of past social needs. Modern man has outgrown such needs and therefore the ideals of the past will cause unhappiness. What produces the most good and happiness should be regarded as moral. Such natural morality cannot be systematised into rules.

  • What does Shaw mean by ‘Byronism’ in the play?

Ans: Lord Byron, an English poet, the author of Child Harold’s Pilgrimage and Don Juan revolted against the conventional society of the day, against hypocrisy and oppression. Sergius’s Byronism is shown in his contempt for everything to do with caution, prudence, commerce and middleclass. He is moody, aristocratic and has an exaggerated sense of humour and also in his sensual fickleness. He has also like Byron a confused mixture of various personalities.

  • “Soldiering is the coward’s art of attacking mercilessly when you are strong and keeping out of harm’s way when you are weak” Who says this? Why does he think so? Is he honest about his claims?

Ans: Sergius accidentally won a battle in an unscientific and impractical manner. That is why he was not promoted to higher rank. To protest against this, he tells Catherine that he gave up the job. Now he intends to use his accidental victory to prove his heroism, which, in reality, is false.

  • “If pity is akin to love, gratitude is akin to other thing.”

Why does the speaker say this? What does he mean by the ‘the other thing’?

Ans: As Raina charges Bluntschli of his ingratitude and betrayal of faith by making the incident public, he answers that if pity leads to love, gratitude leads to hatred.
  • “You are a romantic idiot”

Who says this? Is her opinion justified?
Or, How does Shaw prove his theory that it is the woman who chases and chooses the man in the play?

Ans: in spite of his vast experience Bluntschli commits a mistake regarding the exact age of Raina. This enrages Raina. She succeeds in showing that he has not been able to know all woman. On the other hand, Raina knows all about him perfectly and has marked him and has been pursuing him for a long time. In fact, as a woman she outsmarts Captain Bluntschli.
  • Is the play solely a satire on love and heroism? Justify.

Ans: Shaw’s play’s is not limited to a demonstration of the utility of rational behaviour. If so, Raina would not have saved Bluntschli or Bluntschli would not have returned to the Petkoffs. Certainly there is romance and bravery enough in the play. Shaw is not criticising love, impulse, generosity or bravery; he is showing the foolishness of acting by false systems of behaviour.

  • What did Bluntschli say about the old and new soldier?

Ans: Bluntschli informs Raina quite unexpectedly and contrary to her romantic conceptions of heroism that experienced and practical soldiers know that food is more valuable in the battlefield than ammunition. He also means to say that old soldiers act from sagacity and prescience, while the young ones conduct themselves foolishly and sometime recklessly.

  • “This is a better weapon than a revolver”.

Who is the speaker and what is the ‘better weapon’?

Ans: According Bluntschli, Raina cloak is the better weapon that a revolver because without it, Raina will not be able to dress herself properly and that will prevent her from permitting Bulgarians to enter her room. So he will be safe as long as he has her cloak with him.

Questions for Exercise

  1. Why does Shaw call it an “anti-sentimental comedy”?
  2. What is Bluntschli’s view on war?
  3. How does Raina define ‘higher’ love?
  4. How does Sergius reciprocate Raina’s higher love?
  5. Why does Raina address Bluntschli as “a chocolate cream soldier”?
  6. What dramatic function does Major Petcoff’s coat play in the drama?
  7. What dramatic purpose does Raina’s photograph fulfil in the play?
  8. In Arms and the Man who is the ‘man’ and how are arms related to the man?
  9. How does Sergius express his adverse criticism of warfare?
  10. “Nine soldiers out of ten are fools.” Who says this and when? What does the speaker want to mean?
  11. Comment on the play as a popular comedy.
  12. Comment on the theme of the play.

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