Bring out the significance of the title Arms and the Man by G.B. Shaw.

1 Answer

wordprof's profile pic

wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The title, of course, is from the opening line of Virgil’s Aeneid—“Of arms and the man I sing” and refers to the contrast between the political forces of war versus the human traits that war’s participants bring to it. The man can be warm, loving, supportive, etc. while war itself is its opposite. The Aeneid itself is both the story of the aftermath of the Trojan War and the subsequent wars of acquistion, the conquering of Carthage and founding of Rome—and the “human” story of Aenaes—his loves, his ambitions, himself as a “man.” For Shaw, an anti-romanticist regarding war, his anti-hero Sergius demonstrates the wide disparity between the ideals of war (bravery, sacrifice, loyalty to country, etc.) and the folly of human illusions about those things—Sergius’ “charge” was nothing more than a frightened horse, and the absence of slaughter was because the opposite side had run out of ammunition. By naming his play this way, Shaw is not merely drawing comparisons to Virgil’s work, but is also, as in so many of his plays, bursting the bubble of self-importance, blindness to human folly, and false values. Modern parallels exist in hyperbolic news stories of war “heroes” who were simply “doing their job.”