What is known as ‘drama of Ideas’? How do you classify Arms and The Man as a ‘drama of ideas?


Drama of Ideas or the drama of social criticism in the real sense is a modern development. A number of contemporary problems and evils are subjected to discussion and searching examinations and criticism in these plays. Thus in it, the structure and characterization are of subordinate importance; it ids the ‘discussion’ that counts. Ibsen and then Shaw, Galsworthy and Granville Barker were the chief exponents of this realistic drama of ideas.

To Shaw, drama was preeminently a medium for articulating his own ideas and philosophy. He enunciated the philosophy of life force which he sought to disseminate through his dramas. Thus Shavian plays are the vehicles for the transportation of ideas, however, propagandizing they may be. Shaw wanted to cast his ideas through discussions.

Out of the discussions in the play Arms and The Man Shaw breaks the idols of love and war. The iconoclast Shaw pulls down all false gods which men live, love admire and adore. By a clever juxtaposition of characters and dialogues, Shaw shatters the romantic illusions about war and war heroes Shaw’s message is that war is no longer a thing of banners and glory, as the nineteenth century dramatist saw it, but a dull and sordid affair of brutal strength and callous planning out. The dialogues of Bluntschli, Riana and Sergius go to preach this message with great success. Here to quote Sergius who says, “War is a hollow sham like love.” One thing however be remembered that in Arms and The Man, Mr. Shaw does not, as some imagine attack war. He is not Tolstoy an in the least. What he does is to denounce the sentimental illusion that gathers around war. “Fight if you will”, says he ‘but for goodness’ sake don’t strike picturesque attitudes in the limelight about it. View it as one of the desperately irrational things of life that may, however, in certain circumstances be a brutal necessity. Bluntschli is the very mouth piece of the play that exposes the dreamful reality of war. There is a lot of learning in the disillusionment of Riana and Sergius.

But this is not the whole message Shaw intends to convey through his Arms and The Man. In the play he has taken a realistic view not only of war and heroism but of love and marriage. He has taken a realistic view of life as a whole. He has blown away the halo of romance that surrounds human life as a whole. His message in this play is, therefore, the destruction not only of the conventional conception of the heroic soldier but of the romantic view of marriage, nay, of life as a whole. He pleads for judging everything concerning human life from a purely realistic point of view. This is the message he conveys through the play, Arms and The Man. The hero Bluntschli here serves the mouth piece of the author. He is the postal of level -headedness that sees through emptiness of romantic love and romantic heroism. He towers about all others and shatters all the pet theories and so called high ideas, and converts Raina and Sergius to his own views and succeeds in life because he faces facts and his no romantic illusions about him.

Further, as all the propaganda plays go Arms and The Man lacks action and instead of action it contains plenty of dramatic dialogues. It is not a lie if we say the Arms and The Man Shaw’s a perfect combination of the elements of action and ‘discussion’. The conversation between Raina and Captain Bluntschli, for example in the act-I, is extremely lively and through the mouth of the chocolate cream soldier. Shaw gives expression to his own heresies about the glories of warfare. The fugitive soldier talks to the universality of the flaying instinct, but his talk is not an end in itself. He argues only with a view to persuading Raina to give him shelter and to protect him from the raids of Bulgarian soldiers. Thus there is not a scrap of discussion for the sake of discussion. The action of the drama require that Raina’s hatred of a cowardly should be disarmed, her romantic notions blasted and sympathy and pity aroused. As soon as this end has been achieved, the tired soldier drops down fast asleep. He instinctively realizes that he has become Riana’s poor dear; and there is no need for further argument.


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