Bernard Shaw: A Critical View by Nicholas Grene (auth.)

By Nicholas Grene (auth.)

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But the attempt to suggest that there is any form of emotional reality underlying it is likely to be quite properly ignored by an audience. Arms and the Man has just that superficial degree of resemblance to reality which is necessary for the best fantastic comedy. Any claim that it has more would destroy our appreciation of its peculiar excellence. In July 1894 Shaw defended Arms and the Man as 'A Dramatic Realist to his Critics'. But some months earlier, he had denied that he was 'an advocate for stage realism': 'I am an advocate for stage illusion; stage realism is a contradiction in terms.

There is one speech, and one speech only, in Arms and the Man which brings home the grim reality of war. In the midst of the thickest of the comic confusion between Sergi us, Raina and Bluntschli in Act III it is revealed that Bluntschli's friend who had passed on the story of his midnight escapade at the Petkoffs' is 'dead. Burnt alive'. Bluntschli: Shot in the hip in a woodyard. Couldn't drag himself out. Your fellows' shells set the timber on fire and burnt him, with half a dozen other poor devils in the same predicament.

Vivie[sitting down with a shrug, no longer confident;for her replies, which have sounded sensible and strong to her sofar, now begin to ring rather woodenly and even priggishly against the new tone ofher mother]: Dont think for a moment I set myself above you in any way. (CP, I, 30 9) Mrs Warren's revelation of her past life which follows, carrying with it Shaw's polemic anti-capitalist argument, knocks us backward by its emotional force, as it does Vivie. ing at her] My dear mother: you are a wonderful woman: you are stronger than all England.

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