AN ANTI- ROMANTIC COMEDY ESTABLISHED ON THE NOTION OF 1885 SERBO-BULGARIAN WAR
BOOK REVIEW BY ASMA ZAHOOR
Drama is a genre to be enacted on stage in which the actors take the roles of the characters, utter the written dialogue and perform the intended action. The origin of drama dates back to 19th century. G B Shaw along with many others established himself as a leading playwright, music and literary critic. Though his early plays like Widower’s Houses and Mrs. Warren’s Profession brimmed with critical attack on social hypocrisy his Arms And The Man is devoid of fierce criticism like his The Man Of Destiny. The drama Arms and The Man is an anti- romantic comedy established on the notion of 1885 Serbo-Bulgarian war, set down by G B Shaw.
The plot- line, divided into three acts, adequately satiates a reader about Shaw’s views who feels that things actually have a deeper significance than they appear and what seems to be life lasting may bid a farewell at any time and any place, whatever.
As the curtain is lifted up, Act 1 begins, where we find Raina praising the beauty of the night and her idol-the one to whom she is betrothed. However, her pleasing thoughts are disturbed by a fleeing Serb, Bluntshili, who later on turns to be a Swiss, who very desperately climbs into her bedchamber to escape capture. Obviously Raina is flabbergasted but she manages to stabilize herself and also hides the man from the Bulgarian officers. They strike enough confrontation where Raina sometimes becomes impulsive, sometimes shows a disdain and sometimes revolts. Meanwhile she is introduced, by the man, with the reality of the war and the apparent idiocy of her supposedly brave fiancé. As the battle shuts down, the man, having enjoyed Raina’s chocolates and the night’s sleep, is aided by the duo, Raina and her mother Catherine, to leave disguised in an old coat, the next morning. If not anybody else, Louka is aware of Raina’s actions.
In Act 2, which happens four months later, Bluntshili makes an appearance in Petkoff’s house, only to return the coat and also to see the lady who had once been so generous to him. When the two ladies of the house see Mr. Petkoff and Sergius already knowing him and thus inviting him to stay for lunch, they panic.
In Act 3, which happens In the Petkoff’s library, Bluntshili sits near the table making the troop movements, Raina eagerly wants to know about the portrait that she had kept in the coat pocket but Bluntshili refuses to have seen any and says that it must be still there. It is on the exposition of that photo with “To my chocolate cream soldier” inscribed on it, that Bluntshili, in other way, narrates the whole story to Mr. Petkoff. This results in Sergius proposing to Louka for marriage with whom he had been flirting for the last sometime. And Raina, in her turn, realizing that her romantic ideals for Sergius were all hollow choses her poor “chocolate- cream soldier” who reveals to be none other than the Emperor of Switzerland. Thus the story ends on a happy note and so ends my bowl of cookies.
In the play, the writer is impulsive of reflecting, in a witty and humorous manner, which is so characteristic of him, the peoples’ notions about war, love and marriage. The composition is artistically overflowing with the fun, wit, irony and charm. This anti- romantic comedy pokes fun at the dangers of bravado in war and idealistic notions of love.
G B Shaw, through his highly appropriate characters, which include Raina-the heroine, her parents- Mr. and Mrs. Petkoff, her fiancé and the romantic hero- Major Sergius Saranoff, Captain Bluntshili-the anti-romantic hero, Louka-the maid and Nichola- the man servant, has been able to present his point across. The character reversal at the end brings a relief to the characters themselves and to the audience (reader).
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