Arms and the Man: The Study Guide | Literaturexpres

Arms and the Man: The Study Guide | Literaturexpres

Arms and the Man by G. B. Shaw

(Answer of selected essay or broad questions)

1. Comment on the first meeting scene between Raina and Bluntschli in Shaw’s play Arms and the man. Or discuss the significance of the bedroom episode of Raina.


The first meeting between Raina and Bluntschli is the most important part of the play “Arms and the man” written by G B Shaw (1856-1950) because this meeting forces to move the plot further as an anti-romantic comedy. This scene happens dramatically when Swiss Officer Bluntschli takes shelter in Raina’s bedroom to save himself from Bulgarian Soldiers. By this meeting, Show mentions his realistic attitude toward love and war.

Background of the episode

In 1885, a war was going on between Bulgaria and Serbia. In the war, the Russians supported Bulgaria and Austrians supported Serbia. Raina immediately becomes very happy because her father, Major Petkoff, and her lover, Sergius take part in the war against Serbia and Bulgaria have won in the battle especially for Sergius. However, Bluntschli, a professional Swiss soldier flees from the war and comes to the town of Bulgaria.

Entrance of Bluntschli in Raina’s Bedroom

Bluntschli enters Raina’s bed-chamber on the point of his pistol and asks her to keep quiet and not to shout for help and threatens her that if she disobeys him, he will kill her because he is in a desperate mood and only she stands between him and his death.

At that time, he throws his gun and picks up Raina’s dressing gown, and tells her if she does not agree with him, she will have to receive the soldiers in her present half-naked state. However, Raina wants to save his life. At this moment, somebody knocks on the door and wants to break it. Then, Raina hides him behind the curtain and opens the door. Thus, Raina saves his life from the Bulgarians.

Intimacy to each other

Bluntschli comes out from the curtain and thanks Raina for her intelligence, generosity, and noble and heroic behaviors. At this time, Raina absentmindedly sits on the pistol which keeps on the ottoman and jumps nervously. Then, Bluntschli says her the pistol is unloaded and he has no ammunition. He also says that he would like to carry chocolate instance of ammunition on the battlefield. He says:

“I have no ammunition. What use are cartridges in battle? I always carry chocolate instead; and finished the last cake of that hours.”

Hearing this, Raina gives him a box of chocolate as he is very hungry and he finishes it. However, he further tells her about the reality of the battlefield and solder. So, Raina is moved to pity but still, she thinks that Bulgarian soldiers are not like that.

Concept about heroism

Bluntschli tells Raina that there are two types of soldiers- old ones and young ones. He has served fourteen years. Then he talks about the cavalry charge. He expresses the stupidity of Bulgarian soldiers like Don Quixote though they gain success. Then Raina shows the picture of Sergius who is her lover and she mentions her love to Sergius in many ways. In Raina’s tongue:

“Oh, I shall never be unworthy of you anymore, my soul’s here: never, never, never. My hero! My hero!”

Bluntschli says about Sergius’ act that he is the great fool and he should be demotion for work. And he tells about the soldiers:

“Nine soldiers out of ten are born fools.”

Love for asleep solder

Bluntschli is very tired and he falls asleep on her bed and she lets him sleep there. Raina, in the morning, gives an old coat for escaping and puts a photograph in the coat’s pocket with the inscription:

“Raina to her Chocolate cream Soldier: a souvenir.”

Significance of the Scene

  1. Comic Irony
  2. Symptom of Raina’s love
  3. Ideas of war and heroism
  4. Development of the characters
  5. Opportunity of Louka


In termination, we can say that the first meeting of Raina and Blutschli is the inevitable part that creates the way for the development of the plot and characters. It expresses the reality of society, war, love, and marriage.

2. Question: Discuss the theme of the play “Arms and the Man” Or, discuss in detail Shaw’s views on love, marriage, and war. Or, discuss the theme of war, love, and marriage.


“Arms and the Man” is a famous drama by G. B. Shaw (1856 – 1950) where love, war, and marriage are practically discussed. Shaw has shown how the romance of war leads to the romance of love. He has made fun of popular romantic false ideas regarding war, love, and marriage. He believes in marriage as a necessary and desirable institution but not in the romantic notion of love only. He has proved all subjects lie in a ludicrous way in this drama.

Raina’s disillusionment

At the very outset of the play, we meet Raina living in a world in which Sergius Saranoff is the central figure. She considers herself in love with him. she has gathered her ideas of that passion from Byron, Puskin, and operas. She believes that what holds her, and her fiancé is ‘higher love’ and it will lead them into a married life of never-ending happiness.

“I shall never be unworthy my soul’s hero: never, never”

But her ideas about Sergius receive a bad shaking when she listens to the matter of fact from frank and lively Bluntschli. But even then, she persists in believing that her lover is the hero of romance. When he is back from the war, she receives him with warmth and calls him her hero and her king.

But a few moments later her vision changes when she sees Sergius shamelessly making love to Louka who is Raina’s maid. The apostle of higher love falls down from the pedestal where her imagination had placed him. Hence, she is unmoved when Sergius decides to Louka. She herself is ready to find happiness with Bluntschli.

Disillusionments and pretensions of Sergius after the war

The crowning point of the disillusionment is in Sergius himself. He returns from the war as a sadder but wiser man. He has been disillusioned. He puts it that the cavalry charge was the cradle and the grave of his military reputation. He has sent his resignation and is not going to withdraw it. Raina remains unconscious of this effect of disillusionment in her fiancé for a long time. It is interesting to note that while Bluntschli’s story of the cavalry charge has partly shaken Raina’s faith in her romantic realism about war, Sergius seems to be quite sobered by his experience. He has come to realize that soldiering is:

“The coward’s art of attacking mercilessly

when you are strong, and keeping out of harm’s way when you are weak.”

Thus, Shaw has shown the war in the light of common sense – a matter of business and superior forces devoid of romance and heroism.

Sergius also finds the higher reaches of that passion realized in his romance with Raina. When he returns, he is ready to make love to the maid as soon as his queen’s back is turned. Then he openly and with some conviction chooses Louka as his life partner. Then all his empty pretensions fade away and he is really ready to find sober sure happiness in Louka’s company. 

Shaw’s ideas of a soldier

Bluntschli is Shaw’s idea of a soldier. He marches and fights like the real man with his stomach. Another thing being equal, he prefers life to death. Long fighting leaves his nerves on edge. He is uncontrollably sleepy after being awake for two nights. He eats cream chocolates which are offered to him by Raina. Such an idea of a soldier is revolting to Raina, but it will be recognized to be the reality by all who have been soldiers. Shaw philosophically evaluates the soldiers through Bluntschli in the following manner:

Nine soldiers out of ten are born fools.”


Thus, Shaw has treated the themes unconventionally in his play “Arms and the Man”. He has successfully managed to keep them knitted with the same yarn. He has brought the reality of love and war. He asserts that a romantic attitude to love and war brings nothing except disillusion.

3. Write on the character of Captain Bluntschli on basis of your reading ‘Arms and the Man’.


‘Arms and the Man’ is one of the most famous plays written by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). Bluntschli, the chocolate cream soldier is the most impressive character and the hero of the play. He is a realist, adventurous, romantic, unemotional, wise and etc. He is the mouthpiece of Shaw by whom he expresses his personal ideas and opinions.

Outward Appearance

He is a man of 35 with a medium physical stature. His eyes are quick and clear which indicates his sharp intelligence. He has a strong neck and shoulder. His manners are energetic and he possesses a medium type of human nature. All these make him attractive not only to the other characters but also to the readers too.

Wise and intelligent

Going through the play we can consider him a very wise and intelligent man. In the troop movement matter how he befooled both Petkoff and Sergius is proved by Petkoff’s such saying-

                                    “Haven’t you anything for me to sign?”

He helps Petkoff in sending the soldiers. He wins Raina in the last scene of the playmaking agree her parents by his vast property that shows the sign of his cleverness.

Forcible personality

He possesses a sort of cool and quiet courage. Detachment makes his character distinctive. As he noticed that his presence in Raina’s bedroom may cause her embarrassment, he tells her to call her mother. He is chivalrous. He has a soft corner for Raina but he wants Sergius and Raina to marry. He never desires to take advantage of an immature girl. He does not boast of his abilities and qualities. At the end of the play, he wins the heart not only of Raina and Catherine but also Petkoff and Sergius. Sometimes Bluntschli might appear to be coarse but he is a very polite person. When Raina offers him her hand in her bed-chamber he says,

                        “Better not touch your hand; dear young lady, I must have a wash first.”


He is the only real character in the play. He always disregards illusion and imagination. He considers things just as he finds them, he acts just as occasion demands from him. As a realist, Bluntschli has the power of judging human nature. When Raina tells her that she tells only two lies in her entire life to saving him, he says that she is not only telling lies rather she leads a life full of fabrications. He also denotes Nicola as an efficient Bulgarian.

Adventurous and romantic

Bluntschli is a character of adventure as well as romance. He joins the Army only for his love of adventure and romance. He climbed the balcony to escape from death is a notion of adventure. Because any man of sense hid him in a nearly underground room. He comes back physically to return the coat just to fulfill his romantic desire. As he has a softer corner for Raina he makes her agree to marry him which is also romantic. This evidence is proved by the following lines:

“An incurably romantic disposition


When any man of my age

Would have sent the coat back”

Sense of humor

Bluntschli had a sound sense of humor. whenever he enters the scene, we notice a sound change in the play. When Raina saves his life in the time of his link between life and death, he cannot subdue his natural humor, he laughs presently when he comes to know that the quixotic figure is her fiancé. When Sergius invites him to a duel, he says that he will chase a machine-gun as the weapon. This statement is also an indication of his humor.

Views on war and soldering

He tries to prove that there is no honor and supremacy in war. Rather it brings about great destruction only. He believes that luck leads to victory in war as Sergius has won against them. All this thinking about war and soldering is professional. He is also a professional soldier. In spite of being a Swiss, he works in favor of Serbia just for money. He himself says that,

“I am a professional soldier. I fight when I have to and I am very glad to get out of

When I haven’t to.”

The mouthpiece of Shaw

Shaw wrote this play regarding the idle romantic notions of that contemporary person about war and love. Bluntschli embodies Shaw’s realistic attitude towards war and love. Shaw usually wants to pick up a person who mocks the conventional rules and walks the path driven by his own personality as correct and understandable. Here Bluntschli is the person who impedes the customary and apparently banters all romantic illusions and imagination. So, it is no doubt that he is the mouthpiece of Shaw.


In the final review, we can tell that Bluntschli is starkly the real hero of the play. He has been able to bring out all the ideas that Shaw has forged into him.

4. Shaw’s deep insight into human psychology.


George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) is a master of human psychology. He probes deep into every character of the play ‘Arms and the Man.’ He presents the conflict of the human mind through two sets of characters in this play.


Disillusionment of Raina and Sergius

At the very beginning of the play, we see Raina a young and beautiful girl with romantic illusions which she has gathered by reading Byron and Pushkin as well as watching Operas at the Bucharest. She glorifies war and considers herself in a lobe with Sergius that will lead them into a never-ending married life.

“I shall never be unworthy my soul’s hero: never: never.”

But her ideas about Sergius get somewhat changed when the lively Bluntschli crumbles her ideas about Sergius by saying that Sergius is like a fool as he leads a cavalry charge against the military. But even then she cannot stop believing Sergius as a hero of romance. When Sergius returns from the battlefields, she addresses him as her king and he addresses her as his queen.

But her fancies about Sergius get changed completely when she sees him making love with the mere servant Louka. She also changes her ideas and determines to be settled with Bluntschli. Thus, her life is led from romanticism to realism.

Sergius also maintains a sort of ‘higher love’ with Raina but in reality, he cannot go beyond his natural sex instinct and so he starts flirting with the maid-servant Louka. He has been disillusioned after returning from the war. He returns as a sadder but wiser man. He could understand that the cavalry charge was the grave of his military reputation. So, he has sent his resignation and doesn’t want to withdraw it. He has come to realize that soldering is –

“The coward’s art of attacking mercilessly,

When you are strong, and keeping out of harm way

When you are weak.”

Louka and Catherine

Shaw also goes through the mind of Louka and Catherine. Catherine is a woman of past forty. But she pretends to be younger as well as cultured and advanced. She wears a tea-gown on all occasions to present herself as a Viennese lady. She is angry about the peace treaty. She is in favor of making Serbia a part of Bulgaria. She is very much proud of their wealth. She is also a caring mother. She has a deep concern for her daughter. Finding her at the balcony she expresses that she may catch a cold and also misdoubts that the entrance of Bluntschli into Raina’s bedroom may break off her engagement with Sergius.

Louka is the maid-servant of the Petkoff family. But she considers herself more than that. She is ambitious, beautiful, and intelligent. She is conscious of her beauty. When she understands that Sergius has a softer feeling for her, she makes the hay while the sun shines. She makes Sergius angry about Raina by telling them that Raina is in love with Bluntschli. She also encourages him to marry a lower class than him.

Petkoff’s notion about war and agreement on Raina’s marriage

The psychological condition of major Petkoff has been depicted in this play by the author. He is a Major of 50 in the Bulgarian Army. He considers soldering as a trade. His ambitions are concerned with his income and position in the local community. Presently he is happy with personal and professional achievement.

Major Petkoff revealed his reluctance at the time of Raina’s marriage with Bluntschli. But when Bluntschli declares a list of his vast property, he puts his agreement.

“Oh, I shall be only too glad. Two hundred horses! Whew!” 

His agreement proves that men consider only money as social status.


In termination, we may assert that this play is of great psychological interest. Shaw probes deep into all the characters and brings them back to reality. Thus the triumph of realism over romanticism has closely been observed.

5. Evaluate Arms and the Man as a problem play.


The term ‘problem play’ emerged in the 19th century; war was coined by Sydney Grundy an English dramatist. Problem play includes the current social, political, or any other problems of the society. Shaw defined it a ‘the presentation in the parable of the conflict between man’s will and his environment.” ‘Arms and the Man’ produced by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) is a problem play.

Misconception about war

Raina and Sergius are the characters of romantic illusion. Raina feels joy in every heroic deed. She becomes more cheerful when she has learnt that Sergius led the victorious cavalry charge. Her doubts about Sergius’ bravery have been proved false. Sergius considers war as a sort of game. He displays his bravery foolishly to show his heroism.

False belief in love and marriage

Sergius and Raina are the upholders of higher love. They think it will lift them up to a happy married life. Actually, Sergius is a Byronic hero. He is an unbalanced personality who possesses many qualities and does not know what he should do. So he being the fiancé of Raina flirts with the maidservant and also questions her ‘What is higher love?’ Raina also finds herself with higher love. She thinks no evils will touch them.  She says-

                                    “I shall never be unworthy my soul’s hero: never, never.”

But both of their belief is false as the author himself exposes that marriage is not a romance but a concrete biological need.

Illegal lusty desire

Raina is a beautiful young aristocratic lady. From the outset of the play, we come to know that she is bethorted to Sergius Saranoff. But she fails to attract him with her charm. Sergius shows his physical appetite rather than spiritual connection doing flirtation with the maidservant Louka. He convinces her to marry him. That is the most stigmatic and weak point of human beings that defines noble personalities.

High ambition

Men love to be uplifted. It is their inbred custom. Louka is the maidservant of the Petkoff family. She is witty, pretty, clever, and engaged to another servant Nicola. But she is ambitious .she wants to be rich marrying another rich man that is why she ignores her fiancé. Though she is the servant of the Petkoff’s she has not a soul of a servant. it will be clear from the following lines of Louka to the servant-

“You were born servant. I was not.”

The harsh reality of life

Bluntschli the speaker of the author is the only real character as well as the hero of the play. He shows the harsh reality of life. He proves that food is more necessary than ammunition to fight heroically. He keeps chocolate instead of cartridges. He also breaks the romantic notion about war by presenting Sergius as a don-quixotic figure. Finally, he wins Raina by means of his vast property.


In this play, the author presents romanticism and reality equally. In a problem play, all the problems remain unsolved. But here the writer suggests the solution of every problem through his speaker. So the tag of propaganda play is more appropriate than problem play to ‘Arms and the Man.’

6. Consider Arms and the man as an ant romantic comedy.


An anti-romantic comedy is a form of comedy in which romantic notions about life have been criticized. It mocks the customs and manners of the aristocratic people of the society. ‘Arms and the Man’ by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) is an ant romantic comedy.

Arms and the Man as an ant romantic comedy

The word ant romantic refers to the features that are against romance. ‘Arms and the Man’ (1898) a part of plays pleasant, is an ant romantic comedy. Because Shaw has established the anti-romantic elements in this play. Now, we will discuss the elements in broad.

Delusion of war in Raina and Sergius

Raina and Sergius both hold a personality that is surrounded by illusion. At the beginning of the play, Raina expresses her views on war. She considers war as a romantic game to prove the heroism of soldiers. When she learns from her mother that Sergius led the victorious cavalry charge at the battle of Slivnitza, she feels joy. She utters;

‘This world is really a glorious world for women who can see in its glory and men who can act its romance.’

She believes in Sergius’ heroism and worships his portrait in an inexplicable manner.

Sergius also considers war as a romantic game. He takes the battlefield as an exhibition place. That is why he leads the cavalry charge against machine guns to show his bravery and increase his fame.

Disillusionment of Raina and Sergius

Raina has a romantic view of war but it gets shattered when Bluntschli exposes the reality of life to her. He tells her that every soldier fears death. It is their duty like other human beings to live as long as they can. He values food more than ammunition on the battlefield as food gives strength to fight heroically. He makes her fiancé Sergius fool in front of her by saying that the Serbians had the right kind of ammunition which could destroy Sergius’ cavalry. He quotes about soldiers-

‘Nine soldiers out of ten are born fools.’

Sergius has also learned the reality of war. He brings victory leading the cavalry charge against the military warfare that discredited him. But the two classic colonels were promoted to major general, in spite of losing the battle following the military rules.  That is why he says-

‘Soldering, my dear madam, is the coward’s art of attacking mercilessly when you are stronger and keeping out of harm’s way when you are weak.’

Depraved higher love

Both Raina and Sergius dwell in the world of higher love. They try to present themselves as pure. Raina thinks they are beyond any kind of ignoble deeds. No base or immorality will touch her as she is bound with a kind of true love. she considers Sergius as her soul’s hero and worships his portrait regularly. Sergius also thinks in the same way. He tells that his love and devotion to Raina makes him inspired to do heroic acts.

Though they display themselves as true lovers, they are hypocrites from their respective positions. Sergius being a noble class people of Bulgarian Army officer flirts with a maidservant behind his lover’s back. He hides them into the yards gateway so that Raina cannot see their love-making scenery. Raina also creates a softer corner for Bluntschli. She gives him shelter and chocolate. And helps to flee him with her picture with the inscription ‘Raina to her chocolate cream soldier- a souvenir.’

End with union

Though an antiromantic comedy attacks the romantic notions or shows some difficulties, it makes a closure with the happy union. In the last scene of the play marriage between Sergius and Louka, Bluntschli and Raina have been occurred. The cast inheritance of Bluntschli urges Raina’s parents to agree. Louka entraps Sergius with her charm.

The harsh reality of life

Orally we prioritize spiritual love, but in reality, it is not like that. Bluntschli’s outstanding outward appearance cannot be able to impress Raina’s parents. They value economic security more than good-looking. Sergius cannot remain united with the spiritual attraction. He makes good use of his chance.


From the light of the above discussion, we can uphold ‘Arms and the Man’ as an anti-romantic comedy. As it attacks the romantic and idealistic notions of life and laughs at the romantic illusions about love and marriage.

7. Justify the title ‘Arms and the Man.’


‘Arms and the Man’ is a famous anti-romantic comedy by the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). This title has been taken from Dryden’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid ‘Arms and the Man I Sing.’ The word ‘arms’ refers to weapons of warfare and ‘man’ to realism and criticism on fake heroism. In the root title, Virgil glorifies war but Shaw’s play in contrast satirizes the romantic notion about war.

Shaw’s anti-war theme

Virgil by his words glorifies ‘soldier and war’ in his great work. But Shaw presents a different picture in his play. Shaw mocks all the romantic conceptions about war. He shows the hollowness of war. Presenting the quixotic figure Sergius, the author depicts the real picture of the battlefield. It is not a place for showing one’s heroism. Sometimes fortune may help one to win. At the outset of the play, we feel a warm atmosphere of war but cannot be continued till the end. Raina gets shattered of his romantic illusion about war and heroism by the realist Bluntschli. However, Shaw’s idea about war is completely reversed with Virgil.

Mocking on the conventional love

In the opening scene, we see Raina living in a world in which Sergius is the central figure. She considers herself in love with him. She believes that it will lead them into a married life of never-ending happiness.

“I shall never be unworthy my soul’s hero: never, never.”

But her ideas change when she listens that Sergius is a foolish personality and he wins the war not for his military skills but by a chance. After sometimes it is completely changed when she finds Sergius shamelessly making love with their maidservant. Thus, Sergius mocks the romantic notion about love and life.

Love for humanity

Shaw is in favor of humanity. He shows the brutality of war in his play. He through his speaker Bluntschli expresses that soldiers have the right to live as long as a man can live. Bluntschli says that-

“All of them, dear lady, all of them, believe me.

It is our duty to live as long as we can.”

Chocolate cream soldier

The chocolate cream soldier in the play symbolizes peace. By this title, the author criticizes the Army members. The chocolate cream soldier Bluntschli asserts that chocolate means food is more essential for men on the battlefield than cartridges. It helps people to collect strength for fighting. According to him, there are two types of soldiers, the old and the young. The old group who is experienced keeps food in their holsters and the young group who are emersion in the world of idealism and romantic conceptions about war carry ammunition. He claims that most of the Bulgarians are inexperienced which is why Sergius one of them fights with cavalry against the artillery. Bluntschli tells Raina,

“Oh yes, they are. They are only two sorts of soldiers: old ones and young ones.

I have to serve Fourteen years: half of your fellows never smelt powder before.”

Thus, Shaw through his speaker attacks the conventional system of soldering.


In fine, it can be said that this title has been able to capture the mass attraction as it is very apt and suggestive. Shaw successfully wins his mission through this title. It shows the ability to overcome obstacles and all other critical situations and become superior keeping arms beyond.

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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