AD's English Literature : Explaining the Title of G. B. Shaw’s Arms and The Man

Monday, October 8, 2012

Explaining the Title of G. B. Shaw’s Arms and The Man

Introduction: A good title should be apt and suggestive. It should also be attractive and sticking, so as at once to capture the attention of the audience or the readers. Just as a signboard indicates the contents of a shop, so also a good title should indicate the theme of the play. Let us apply these criteria for judging the aptness of the title of George Bernard Shaw’s plays Arms and The Man.

 Its Source: The title of Arms and The man as Shaw himself says in his preface has been taken from the first line of Dryden’s Virgil. Drydon’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid begins with the following couplet:
             “Arms and The Man I sing, who forced by fate
              And haughty Juno’s unrelenting hate.”
 Shaw has also quoted ‘Arms Virumque Cano’ as a motto in his play which the man is more than his weapons. The Arm Virumque Cano of Virgil is a mounting and ascending phrase which suggests a superb procession which should bring on to the stage the brazen and resounding armour, the shield and shattering axe, but end with the hero himself, taller and more terrible because unarmed.

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Ironical Significance: The title of Arms and The Man is chose after careful consideration. The title is both apt chosen attractive and the dramatist’s choices justified. It is an ironical reversal of Virgil’s original intention. Virgil in his famous epic The Aencid recounts the martial exploits and adventures of Aeneid. But Shaw does not look at war with the same eyes as Virgil. He does not write this drama to speak about the glories of war. He rather proves that heroism and utter foolishness do not lie far apart. He shows through his characters that we must divest ourselves of all romantic illusions about war and real success falls to the man who acts with a realist’s self composure.

The Title: Reference of it in the plot: The action of Arms and The man evolves out the background of war (arms) its impact on the fate of the solders and those who came in contact with theme (man) representing different shades of life. The fortunes of solders form the staple of the plot; the discussion on war bulks large in the drama. Here those who are romantic face disillusionment and find themselves fools, while on the other hand, those who are realist in thoughts and approaches, sucked at every at age in life. Raina the heroine has romantic notions represents. Sergius a romantic fool in contrasted with the brilliant comic figure and matter of fact soldier captain Bluntschli – The moment the sun of Bluntschli’s realism rises on the horizon of the play, the fog of Raina’s romanticism disappears. Raina’s disillusionment and the revelation of the hollowness of the ideals of love and heroism is infect an unromantic and unsentimental sage of ‘Arms and The man.’

Conclusion: George Bernard Shaw has successfully accomplished his mission through his title. It is thought provoking interesting and ironical. Further, it gives Shaw full vent to his comic genius along with his serious engagement with major social ethical issues. Thus Arms and The man is a befitting title to a drama where war’s is the mainspring of actions and thoughts. No doubt it treats of romantic love but the main theme is the fictitious glory of war. The play amply demonstrates the power of man over arms. It Shows how man controls situations overcomes obstacles and thereby proves himself superior to arms. This makes the title quite appropriate. 

 Ardhendu De   

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An English Teacher;    M. A.(English) , D. Ed., B. Ed., UGC- NET Qualified

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