Arms and the Man

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Arms and the Man Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish author, playwright, music critic and activist as well as a founder of the London School of Economics. Shaw was born and educated in Dublin. As a young adult he became interested in socialism and activism and began to foster a lifelong interest in what he considered to be the reprehensible cultural exploitation of the working class. He began writing plays in the 1890s, and his writing always contained some elements of socio-cultural critique. Shaw was a very prolific writer, writing over 50 plays in addition to articles, reviews, essays, and pamphlets. His popularity rose in the early 1900s and he started to become a famous, well-respected playwright. In 1925, he was recognized for his work with the Nobel Prize in Literature. He married an Irish political activist named Charlotte Payne-Townshend, and they lived happily together until her death in 1943. Shaw dies seven years later, at the old age of 94, in his home in England.
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Historical Context of Arms and the Man
The late 1800s marked the rise of socialism, Marxism, and worsening class divisions as well as a shift in literature and art away from Romanticism, which no longer seemed suited to describe or make sense of reality. This was the beginning of the Modernist period, where various forms of art would innovate rapidly in an attempt to describe and depict a more complicated reality, show various sides of things at once, and somehow capture the nuances of human life and experience.
Other Books Related to Arms and the Man
The play makes reference to Romanticist literature—Raina’s romantic Novels are often mentioned, and Sergius is called a “Byronic hero.” Romanticist literature celebrated intense emotion, heroic individualism, irrationality and nature. Shaw does not necessarily condemn these things entirely, but the play does suggest that Romanticist literature simplifies human existence, glorifying dramatic human achievements in love and war without acknowledging the ugly realities that are also present.
Key Facts about Arms and the Man
  • Full Title: Arms and the Man
  • When Written: early 1890s
  • Where Written: Ireland; England
  • When Published: 1894
  • Literary Period: Transitional: end of Romanticism, beginning of Modernism
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Setting: Bulgaria
  • Climax: Sergius is discovered to be in love with Louka, and accuses Raina of having an affair with Bluntschli.
  • Antagonist: Sergius
  • Point of View: Play
Extra Credit for Arms and the Man

Prizewinner. George Bernard Shaw is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize in Literature and an Academy Award for his work on the writing and production of Pygmalion.