Arms and the Man

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A: George Bernard Shaw Pf: 1894, London Pb: 1898 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Bulgaria, 1885–6 C: 4m, 4fRaina Petkoff is engaged to Sergius Saranoff, a Bulgarian officer, whose suicidal cavalry charge against the Serbs improbably succeeded, and who is now hailed as a hero. Bluntschli, an escaping Swiss mercenary serving with the Serbs, climbs into Raina's room at night and dismays her with his unheroic attitude: he even has chocolates in his cartridge-belt. However, she assists his escape. Sergius returns from the war and, after an overblown declaration of his love for Raina, begins to flirt outrageously with the maid Louka. When Bluntschli reappears to return the coat which he escaped in, Raina realizes that she loves him. On learning this, Sergius challenges Bluntschli to a duel. The challenge fails when Bluntschli suggests machine guns as duelling weapons. Raina will marry her ‘chocolate soldier’ Bluntschli, who has fortuitously just inherited a fortune from his father's hotel chain, and Sergius will console himself with Louka.

A: George Bernard Shaw Pf: 1894, London Pb: 1898 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Bulgaria, 1885–6 C: 4m, 4f

This notable anti-war comedy was the first play by Shaw to enjoy a professional production and is still popular across the world today. Although Shaw was satirizing 19th-century romantic comedy, we still laugh at the pricking of the bubble of romantic love and heroic sentiment, as we match the bombast of the ‘hero’ Sergius (a distant legatee of The Braggart Soldier) against the honesty and pragmatism of the down-to-earth Bluntschli.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

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