Arms and the man is one of the most popular plays of G.B.Shaw. The scene of the play is laid in Bulgaria. The curtain rises on the bed chamber of Raina Petkoff, the heroine, who is on the balcony, enjoying the beauty of the fine November night. Catherine Petkoff, Raina’s mother comes to tell Raina about the war fought between the Bulgarians and the Serbs. She informs Raina that the Bulgarians have won the battle, because of Sergius, Raina’s fiancé, who fought heroically and bravely against the Serbs and put them to flight. Raina exults at his imagined exemplary heroism. She believes that war is essentially a heroic activity and the soldiers who fight are heroes. Right then, when Raina is on the height of romantic effervescence, Bluntschli, an enemy officer rushes desperately in her room in the darkness of night to seek refuge from impending death. Bluntschli tells Raina of the horrors of the battle field. He presents before her a real slice of the battlefield. Raina is shocked to find out that the soldiers, like ordinary human beings, are afraid to die. Thus Raina is shocked out of her reverie of romantic notions about war and comes to confront Bluntschli’s opinions with an open mind. Bluntschli tells Raina that Sergius fought most foolishly, as if he does not know the basic principles of war. Bluntschli spent the night there and in the morning, Raina and her mother help him to escape in disguise, wearing Mr.Petkoff, Raina’s father’s coat, who was out in the battlefield fighting with the Serbs. Act 1 thus ends. In act 2 Mr.Petkoff and Sergius returns from the war. Sergius most unheroically flirts with Louka, Raina’s maid servant, after adoring a love scene with Raina. Raina’s soulful exalted devotion to Sergius gets a big jolt. To add to this, Bluntschli comes to return the coat. While Mrs.petkoff tells him that her husband and Sergius are present in the house, and if they discover the truth it will be a great disaster, so Bluntschli should leave at once before they see him there, Mr.Petkoff sees him and tells him to stay and help him in his military affairs. The table is turned and the act ends with Bluntschli’s staying on. In the act 3, the secret comes out and Bluntschli openly proposes Raina to marry him, while Sergius chose Louka to marry. The notion of higher love is broken and Raina matures and accepts Bluntschli as her true love and husband.
The action of the play, arms and the man, takes place in Bulgaria. It refers to the historical battle of Slivnitza , which continued for 14 days, fought between Bulgaria aided by Russia, and Serbia helped by Austria in November, 1885. The war ends with Bulgaria’s victory. The story thus deals with an actual country and with a historical episode. By referring to this war, Shaw actually tries to present the hollowness of the romantic notions of war. He presents the antiromantic views of war.
Shaw, with his frank and free style, his mixture of humour and wit and his unconventional characters, has been able to catch the attention of the audience and has been a successful playwright to maintain his popularity and hold it as well.
Arms and the Man is one of the most popular plays of G.B.Shaw. The play has attracted all classes of people. I, too, find it really very entertaining and interesting. In my opinion, it is the humour of Shaw which accounts for its widespread popularity.
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