Arms and the Man
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Arms and the Man is a comedy by G. Bernard Shaw. Its title comes from the opening words of Virgil's Aeneid: "Arma virumque cano" (Of arms and the man I sing). (PP A.1.1)
The play was first produced in 1894, and published in 1898 as part of Shaw's Plays Pleasant volume, which also included Candida, You Never Can Tell, and The Man of Destiny.
Shaw's plays often question conventional values, and Arms and the Man is no exception. Its satirical targets are false notions of both war and love.
The play takes place during the 1885 Serbo-Bulgarian War. Its heroine, Raina (rah-EE-na), is a young Bulgarian woman engaged to one of the heroes of that war, whom she idealizes. One night, a Swiss voluntary soldier to the Serbian army, Bluntschli, bursts into her bedroom and begs her to hide him, so that he is not killed. Raina complies, though she thinks the man a coward, especially when he tells her that he does not carry pistol cartridges, but chocolates.
During the course of the play, Raina comes to realize the hollowness of her romantic idea and her fiancé's values, and the true nobility of the "chocolate-cream soldier." The play concludes with her renouncing her idyllic love and proclaiming her love for Bluntschli.
Film, TV and theatrical adaptations
- A British film adaptation of 1932 was directed by Cecil Lewis. It starred Barry Jones as Bluntschli and Anne Grey as Raina.
- A filmed version of Arms and the Man in German entitled Helden ("Heroes") starring O. W. Fischer and Liselotte Pulver was runner up for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1958.
- Shaw sold the rights to adapt the play into a Viennese operetta, certain that it would never be produced. However, it became a phenomenal hit as The Chocolate Soldier (1908), and Shaw vowed never to sell musicalization rights again. (His estate eventually relented, allowing the production of My Fair Lady).
- A musical by Udo Jürgens, Helden, Helden, which is also based on Shaw's play, premiered at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, Austria in 1973.
- The BBC produced a version in 1989, directed by James Cellan Jones, starring Helena Bonham Carter and Pip Torrens.