How Does Bernard Shaw Satirise Essay

1963 words - 8 pages

When Bernard Shaw was writing 'Arms and the Man' in 1893-1894, Romantic ideals concerning love and war were still widely accepted and considered normal; an attitude that did not change, even with Bernard Shaw's efforts to the contrary, until the dreadful losses of the First World War. Shaw, a socialist, was greatly influenced by Henrik Ibsen who "took social themes, treated them realistically and condemned the crushing effects of society." Shaw continued in this vein, using his humour and wit to criticise "injustice, hypocrisy and self-interest." In 'Arms and the Man' Shaw attacks these ideals of love in a number of ways. He grossly exaggerates (exaggeration being the most important part of these romantic ideas), but does so to an even greater extent than normal. He gives stark comparisons between his perceived reality and that of the majority of the population, and does so among the characters, the plot and the situation. He also makes a mockery of these ideals by eventually allowing the characters to realise for themselves the absurdity of their attitudes. Yet, strangely, perhaps because he realised that his play still had to be acceptable to a wide audience, he seems to allow Romantic ideas to re-emerge at the end.During the Romantic period exaggeration of things such as love was common, and was, in fact, the basis of the Romantic culture. In 'Arms and the Man' there an even greater extent of exaggeration than was common. The characters, the situations and to some extent the plot are all exaggerated in some way. Of the main characters, Sergius, Raina, and Bluntschli, only Bluntschli is not of a highly romantic bearing, and even he might be considered slightly exaggerated in the opposite way.Sergius is described by Shaw as "a tall, romantically handsome man, with the physical hardihood, the high spirit and the susceptible imagination of an untamed mountaineer chieftain. . . The result is precisely what the advent of nineteenth century thought first produced in England: to wit, Byronism." Byronsim is derived from the word byronic, which is used to describe someone who is "energetic, melodramatic and romantically good-looking," the characteristics of the poet Lord Byron. Byron was a controversial romantic, who was a superb poet (in some people's opinion) but led a scandalous life. Sergius is also good-looking, or believes himself to be, and it is revealed that he is also leading a rather scandalous attachment to Louka. He is certainly melodramatic, as he "posts himself with conscious dignity against the steps" and "with old measured emphasis, folding his arms," says, "I never apologise!" However, he knows that he is acting the part of a romantic hero because it is expected of him, not because he is a romantic hero and knows that it is all a disguise, and even realises that he "feels the need for some relief after it" This "it" is the concept of the "higher love".Sergius and Raina believe, or want to believe, that they are in love to a greater...

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