Justify the title of the play Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw.

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title of play Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw is based on the famous opening lines of Virgil's Aeneid,

Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris

Italiam fato profugus Laviniaque venit


which means roughly "I sing of the arms and the man who first from Trojan shores by harsh fate was driven to Italy and Lavinian shores." 

The poem itself is a heroic epic, describing the wide travels and harsh travails of Aeneas and the other exiled Trojans as Aeneas strives to fulfill his fate of founding a new Troy after his ancestral city has fallen to the Greeks. It serves as a foundation myth for the roman Empire.

Shaw uses the title ironically, contrasting the mythic hero with the everyday mercenary, who is a wanderer like Aeneas, but considerably less heroic. Much of the dialogue in the play contrasts heroic myth with the practical aspects of war as viewed through the decidedly unromantic Captain Bluntschli, who is constantly debunking heroic myths and posturing..