Summary of Arms and the Man

Summary of Arms and the Man

by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

Key Facts

Title: “Arms and the man” coined from Dryden’s translation of Virgil’s “Aeneid.”

Written and Performance: Shaw wrote the play in 1894 within just 28 days. The literary work had also its first production in the same year, 1894(21st April).

Publication date: ‘1898’ four years later of its first production.

Time setting: Late 19th century.

Place setting: The action of the play takes place in Bulgaria at Petkoff’s house.

Type: Play.

Genre: social satire, romance, comedy.

Acts and episodes: The story of the play is made up of three acts and five episodes. The episodes are:

  1. The chocolate-cream-soldier-episode.
  2. The coat episode.
  3. The photograph episode.
  4. The Sergius-Louka episode.
  5. The Nicola-Louka episode.


  1. Mutual love and attraction.
  2. The fake conception of higher love.
  3. The vague fascination for war.
  4. Professional skills.
  5. The Byronic Hero.


  1. Bluntschli: He is a 35 rented Swiss soldier in favor of Serbia and the mouthpiece of the author. Also, he is the only realist of the play as well as the hero.
  2. Raina Petkoff: She is beautiful, romantic, and wise and also possesses general humanity as well as she is the heroine. She is able to adjust herself to the changed circumstances and situations.
  3. Sergius: He is a brave soldier and a romantic Byronic hero. Besides, he is intemperate and unbalanced. He seems to be a complex character because he does not know what he will do.
  4. Louka: She is a maidservant of the Petkoff family. She is witty, pretty as well as ambitious, and clever. She is engaged to Nicola. She stands for Shaw’s ideas about social inequality.
  5. Major Petkoff: He is about 50 and an officer in the Bulgarian Army. He is easy-going and fond of humor. He loves to stick to tradition and has a dislike for modernism. He is the father of Raina Petkoff and the husband of Catherine Petkoff. Overall, he is a pure comic figure of the play.
  6. Catherine Petkoff: She is a woman of past forty. She is strong, active, and very fond of fashionable clothes, and has a kind heart full of ambition. She is the mother of Raina Petkoff and the wife of Major Petkoff.
  7. Nicola: He is middle-aged with an intelligent look and quiet manners with a commercial mind. He is the man-servant of the Petkoff’s and knows some secrets of Petkoff’s family. He is humble and faithful and has been a servant to the Petkoff’s for ten years.


The play represents a Serbo-Bulgarian war that occurred in late November 1985. Raina a young lady of 23 standing on her balcony is enjoying the scenic beauty of that romantic night. She seems to be lost in thoughts but her mother Catherine interrupts it by announcing that they have won the battle of Slivnitza led by Sergius Saranoff with whom Raina is betrothed. Raina is very much excited to hear this and starts to express her misbeliefs as she doubted Sergius’ heroism before. Suddenly, Louka enters and requests them to close the windows and the shutters as the fleeing Serbian soldiers have diffused within the town and the Bulgarians are chasing them. Catherine tells Raina to do so and then both Catherine and Louka leave the room. Keeping the lights on, Raina lies in her bed with a novel but the outside gunfire sound leads her to make it off. She notices a heavy breathing sound in the silent dark room. To discover the sound maker she asks who is there. The voice replies that he is a fugitive and does not want to be getting killed and tells her to light a lamp. The man who enters into Raina’s bedchamber is Bluntschli, the hero of the play begs pardon for this sudden disturbing. Being kind at his howling, she hides him from the Russian soldiers. Bluntschli tells Raina to call her mother as if this incident were not bad news. Raina goes to call her mother alarming him not to sleep. Coming back with her mother, they find the wounded soldier in deep sleep. Catherine jerks him to make him awake and helps him to flee with the old coat of major Petkoff in which Raina puts a picture of her with a message “ Raina, to her chocolate cream soldier’s memoto.” 

Click Here; For Notes Free of Cost of Arms and the Man

The second act begins after three months on a beautiful spring morning on 6th March 1986 in Petkoff’s garden. The maidservant Louka is smoking a cigarette turning her back to the manservant with whom she is engaged who is advising her to be more obedient to their master. As they speak, Major Petkoff, Raina’s father appears from the stable yard, followed by Nicola. Petkoff orders Nicola to inform the mistress of his arrival and to bring some fresh coffee. Catherine comes and welcomes him by giving a kiss. Major announces that the war has ended with a treaty. Catherine becomes shocked as well as reluctant to hear this news. She tells him that he could make Prince Alexander the Emperor of the Balkans. Petkoff pacifies her offend and wants to know how she has been keeping. At the time of their confabulation, Sergius Saranoff knocks at the gate and calls Nicola to open. Petkoff and Catherine both greet him praiseworthy. But Sergius announces that he will resign from the Army as he has not been promoted in spite of being competent. Sergius desires to see Raina and suddenly she appears. Raina also greets her father and fiancé very affectionately.

While conversing, they narrate an escaping story of a Swiss fugitive. Catherine and Raina become annoyed with this story as well as astonished considering it as Bluntschli’s story. Catherine and Petkoff leave Raina and Sergius privately to enjoy their diametrical period. Keeping her hands on his soldier, she tells him in this manner, “My hero! My king! Kissing her on the forehead he tells ‘My queen!’ at once they guess Louka’s appearance and hurriedly separate. Desiring to go outside Raina goes upstairs to bring her hat. Before her arrival, Sergius makes a flirt with Louka and then Louka gives him a hint about Raina’s hypocrisy. Raina comes back, and prepares to leave for a walk; Catherine calls Sergius to the library to help Major Petkoff in arranging some troop movements. Catherine and Raina discuss the significance of the encounter between the Swiss and their family members. As Raina exits from the sight, Louka enters and announces that the Swiss officer is at the door and wants to meet with her.

Captain Bluntschli, the chocolate cream soldier, has come to return the coat that was used to get him out of the house. Catherine attempts to send him away early lest her husband should identify him. But Petkoff captures him by the window as he recognizes him from the peace treaty, greets him warmly, and asks him to help coordinate Bulgarian troop movements. Raina appears from the upstairs and shouts ‘oh! The chocolate cream soldier!’ that raises suspicion between her father and fiancé about her. Thinking quickly, she explains that she has made a beautiful icing for the ice pudding but that stupid Nikola has ruined it.

Act iii is set in the library on the same day after lunch. Captain Bluntschli and Sergius are managing the task with too much efficiency. Major Petkoff wants his old coat as he feels no comfort with the new one. Catherine orders Nicola to fetch the coat from the blue wardrobe where it was kept before and now has lost. Petkoff challenges the presence of the coat and stakes with Catherine. Nicola returns back with the coat and produces it before Petkoff who can hardly believe his eyes. Then major Petkoff and Sergius leave to implement Bluntschli’s order, leaving the captain alone with Raina. Raina gives a mischievous glance at him and becomes amazed that he looks much better than before. She also postures that morally she is too much wounded as she has told two lies to save his life. She also tells him that knowing her true nature he will hate her. Whereas, Bluntschli has been charmed by her pretension. Suddenly, Louka brings a pile of letters and telegrams and keeps them on the table hurriedly that bear the death news of his father and his large inheritance. Then he departs the library.

Louka starts to tease Raina by making bitter comments about Bluntschli. Nicola appears and suggests Louka being meek and tame in her fashions as well as behavior. Nicola leaves the room calmly and Sergius enters. Sergius comes slowly to her and examines the way she has pinned up her sleeve in a thoughtful manner. He finds out about an injury in her arms and wants to heel it with a kiss but is rejected. Louka questions his notion of bravery, asserting that anyone can be brave on the battlefield. She asks Sergius if he will marry a girl like her below his status for love. Sergius claims he would. Louka teases him that Raina will never marry him as she is in love with Bluntschli.

Bluntschli unmindfully comes into the room. Sergius challenges him to a duel suspected him as a cheater in case of lovemaking. Raina rushes forward with apprehension and tells that why they two will fight. Sergius says that he will do that as she let him love her behind his back. Intercepting them Bluntschli tells that she welcomes him with a pistol pointed at her head. As a change of heart, Sergius withdraws from the contest. Then, Raina condemns Sergius for making love with Louka and tells Sergius to fight with Nicola instead of Bluntschli as he is engaged with Louka. She also adds that Sergius has employed Louka to spy on them. To prove it as a false accusation, he goes out to look for her.

Major Petkoff enters the scene and looks at them attentively to speculate the situation. Nicola comes with the coat and Raina helps her father to put it on. Not finding the photograph in his pocket he asks all who is the chocolate cream soldier. Bluntschli admits that he is the chocolate cream soldier. Petkoff looks at Raina with reproach and asks her with whom she is engaged. Raina explains that she is engaged with none of them and announces that Louka is the present ladylove of Sergius. Sergius bends his knee and Louka modestly gives her hand, which he kisses, committing himself to marry her. Catherine enters and wants to know the matter. Petkoff says that Sergius has decided to marry Louka. Bluntschli follows Sergius’ path and proposes Raina to become her fiancé but Major Petkoff disagrees. At last, Bluntschli’s vast property makes Petkoff agree to the marriage. Bluntschli leaves to take care of his father’s property with promises to return within fifteen days.

Moral lesson

Conjugal happiness does not depend on social status rather it depends on a lovable partner.

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
Articles: 380

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