Arms and the Man by George Bernard

“Arms and the Man” is a play written by George Bernard Shaw, first produced in 1894. The play is a romantic comedy set during the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885 and satirizes the ideals of romanticism and the glamorization of war.

The play centers around the character of Raina Petkoff, a young Bulgarian woman who is engaged to a wealthy, war hero named Sergius Saranoff. Raina idealizes war and heroism, but her beliefs are challenged when she meets Captain Bluntschli, a Swiss mercenary who is hired by the Bulgarians to fight in the war.

Bluntschli, who is pragmatic and unromantic, reveals the truth about the futility and absurdity of war, and Raina begins to see her fiancé in a new light. Along the way, the play also addresses themes such as social class, gender roles, and the clash between old and new values.

“Arms and the Man” is known for its witty dialogue, clever use of irony, and Shaw’s sharp criticism of societal norms and values. It has been adapted into various forms over the years, including films, television shows, and stage productions.

Key Facts

  • “Arms and the Man” was first produced at the Avenue Theatre in London in 1894.
  • The play is a romantic comedy set during the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885, which Shaw uses as a backdrop to satirize the ideals of romanticism and the glamorization of war.
  • The main characters include Raina Petkoff, a young Bulgarian woman engaged to a war hero named Sergius Saranoff, and Captain Bluntschli, a Swiss mercenary who challenges Raina’s beliefs about war and heroism.
  • The play addresses themes such as social class, gender roles, and the clash between old and new values.
  • “Arms and the Man” is known for its witty dialogue, clever use of irony, and sharp criticism of societal norms and values.
  • The play was initially met with mixed reviews but eventually became one of Shaw’s most popular works.
  • “Arms and the Man” has been adapted into various forms, including films, television shows, and stage productions.
  • Shaw won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925, largely due to his contribution to the development of modern comedy through works like “Arms and the Man.”

Major Characters

  1. Raina Petkoff – A young Bulgarian woman who is engaged to Sergius Saranoff, a war hero. Raina is idealistic and romantic, with a strong belief in the glory of war and heroism. Her beliefs are challenged when she meets Captain Bluntschli.
  2. Captain Bluntschli – A Swiss mercenary who is hired by the Bulgarians to fight in the war. Bluntschli is pragmatic and unromantic, and he challenges Raina’s beliefs about war and heroism. He becomes a love interest for Raina.
  3. Sergius Saranoff – A Bulgarian officer and war hero who is engaged to Raina. Sergius is handsome and charismatic, but he is also vain and impulsive. He has an affair with Raina’s maid, Louka.
  4. Louka – Raina’s maid who is in love with Sergius. Louka is clever and ambitious, and she uses her wits to manipulate the other characters to her advantage.
  5. Catherine Petkoff – Raina’s mother who is obsessed with social status and maintaining appearances. Catherine is a domineering and controlling character who often clashes with her husband.
  6. Major Paul Petkoff – Raina’s father who is a Bulgarian officer. Major Petkoff is a practical man who is more concerned with his family’s financial well-being than with matters of honor and glory.

These characters represent different attitudes and values towards love, war, and social status, and their interactions drive the plot of the play.

Minor Characters

  1. Nicola – The Petkoff family’s manservant. Nicola is a loyal and hardworking servant who takes pride in his job. He is often caught in the middle of the family’s disputes.
  2. Russian Officer – A captured Russian officer who is brought to the Petkoff household as a prisoner of war. The officer’s presence in the house creates tension and uncertainty among the characters.
  3. Major Serobrine – A Serbian officer who is a rival of Sergius. Serobrine is portrayed as a more serious and disciplined officer than Sergius.
  4. The Man – A Swiss soldier who appears briefly in the play. He is the one who informs Bluntschli of his father’s death, which motivates Bluntschli to leave the war and return home.

While these characters have less screen time than the main ones, they still serve a purpose in the play’s development, adding complexity and depth to the story.

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Arms and the Man