"Arms and The Man" as a play of Ideas.

  A drama of ideas is a type of drama which deals with certain ideas. In this type of drama a social problem is illustrated and usually a solution is suggested. In a drama of ideas the dramatic characters express the thoughts and in a drama of ideas we have the conflict of ideas and the conflict of speech. Ideas are more important than feelings. When the dramatist deals with emotions he leaves much to be desired. He fails to create satisfactory emotional situations. In such a drama the structure and characterisation are of little importance, and the importance is given on discussion.

Arms and the Man is a drama of ideas. The play lacks in action. It is a dramatic dialogue. The characters of the play are types. They are all talking characters. They give their mental reaction to the world in long speeches. This accounts for the conflict of speech and the conflict of ideas. Through these conflicts, Shaw, in the play, exposes the follies and unrealities associated with war and love.

The play deals with Shaw’s ideas about war. He exposes romantic misconceptions about war tjrough the characters of Bluntschli, Sergius and Petkoff. Sergius led a cavalry charge against a battery of machine guns disobeying the command of the Russian officer and violating the rules of military science. Sergius wins the battle because the Serbs had wrong kind of ammunition. If they had right kind of ammunition the cavalry chargers would be massacred. He was not promoted to a general. When Bluntschli narrates the horror of war, Sergius realises that war is a hollow sham.

Bluntschli is the mouthpiece of Shaw. He has no romantic illusion about war. He cures of Raina’s illusion about war. Raina becomes wild in joy when she comes to know Sergius’ victory at the battle of Slivnitza. Bluntschli takes shelter in her bedroom and begins to express his realistic view about war. He tries to inculcate his ideas into Raina that food is more important than ammunition in the battle field. He tells her that soldiers are like ordinary man afraid to die. Gradually he exposes the foolishness of Sergius in leading the cavalry charge against the artillery. Ultimately her romance about war is shattered.

In Arms and the Man Shaw also satirises the follies of romantic love. Both Sergius and Raina have romantic love for each other. They speak of ‘higher love’, but their higher love fails to tie them together. Higher love‘ becomes fatiguing to Sergius when Raina goes out of his sight. He takes shelter of earthy love and begins to flirt with Louka, the maid-servant. The same thing happens to Raina when she meets Bluntschli. She gradually becomes disillusioned and is drawn to Bluntschli. Thus Shaw inculcates his idea in the play that love is not a romance but a reality.

A drama of ideas lacks emotion. Ideas are more important than emotion in such type of drama. Emotional overtones have to be indicated through the use of parenthetical suggestions, such as---

Bluntschli:  (Rising) It is alright, Major. I am the chocolate cream soldier (Petkoff and Sergius are equally astonished).

Petkoff:  You!  (He gasps) Sergius, do you remember how these two women went on when we mention it? (Sergius smiles cynically).

In a drama of ideas, structure and characterisation are of little importance and the importance is given on discussion. In Arms and the Man, Shaw is indifferent to plot construction and characterisation because his aim is not to tell a story but to propagate some new ideas. His play is an account of many mental reactions to a given problem. So he gives emphasis on the discussion which is summed up in a lengthy preface which he has attached to each play and which is necessary for the proper understanding of the play.

Thus Arms and the Man is a play of ideas. In this play Shaw propagates his realistic view about war and love. The plot of the play is of minor importance. The emphasis is given on discussion. The characters of the play are not fully portrayed. It displays little action. So in every respect, it is a drama of ideas.

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