Shaw’s pleasant plays are set of comedies written to amuse the audiences while provoking them to think and question at the same time. Arms and the Man is one of those plays. Set in the Balkan mountains in 1886, with the backdrop of a war and its aftermath, the drama deals with the many sided personalities of its characters and can be called a comedy of errors.
The play begins with our heroine Raina protecting and providing safe passage to a Swiss mercenary soldier in the Serbian army, Captain Bluntschli, when he climbs up her balcony while being chased by Bulgarian soldiers. At that time, Raina is betrothed to Sergius, a Major in the Bulgarian army and the hero of the battle which led to their victory. Despite Raina being offended by the soldier’s manners and lack of what she calls chivalry, and his mockery of the hero Sergius, she feels for the tired and pragmatic soldier and helps him. She also manages to make her mother Catharine, a strong handsome woman, an accomplice in her plans and both are successful in sneaking Bluntschli out of the house, disguised in an old housecoat.
This play was Shaw’s first commercial success. The opening night made him “the most formidable man in modern letters”- W. B. Yeats. This can be the best work with which one can introduce a friend to the man called G B Shaw.
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