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Arms and the Man

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Arms and the Man

by George Bernard Shaw

Genre: Comedy
Setting:
Format of Original Source: Play
Recommended Adaptation Length:

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising

EXCERPT:

A mercenary, torn between love and war, and the romantic notions of a young girl who idolizes him.
an excerpt:MAN (irritably). Don’t frighten me like that. What is it?

RAINA. Your pistol! It was staring that officer in the face all the time. What an escape!

MAN (vexed at being unnecessarily terrified). Oh, is that all?

RAINA (staring at him rather superciliously, conceiving a poorer and poorer opinion of him, and feeling proportionately more and more at her ease with him). I am sorry I frightened you. (She takes up the pistol and hands it to him.) Pray take it to protect yourself against me.

MAN (grinning wearily at the sarcasm as he takes the pistol). No use, dear young lady: there’s nothing in it. It’s not loaded. (He makes a grimace at it, and drops it disparagingly into his revolver case.)

RAINA. Load it by all means.

MAN. I’ve no ammunition. What use are cartridges in battle? I always carry chocolate instead; and I finished the last cake of that yesterday.

RAINA (outraged in her most cherished ideals of manhood). Chocolate! Do you stuff your pockets with sweets–like a schoolboy–even in the field?

MAN. Yes. Isn’t it contemptible?

(Raina stares at him, unable to utter her feelings. Then she sails away scornfully to the chest of drawers, and returns with the box of confectionery in her hand.)

RAINA. Allow me. I am sorry I have eaten them all except these. (She offers him the box.)

MAN (ravenously). You’re an angel! (He gobbles the comfits.) Creams! Delicious! (He looks anxiously to see whether there are any more. There are none. He accepts the inevitable with pathetic goodhumor, and says, with grateful emotion) Bless you, dear lady. You can always tell an old soldier by the inside of his holsters and cartridge boxes. The young ones carry pistols and cartridges; the old ones, grub. Thank you. (He hands back the box. She snatches it contemptuously from him and throws it away. This impatient action is so sudden that he shies again.) Ugh! Don’t do things so suddenly, gracious lady. Don’t revenge yourself because I frightened you just now.

RAINA (superbly). Frighten me! Do you know, sir, that though I am only a woman, I think I am at heart as brave as you.

MAN. I should think so. You haven’t been under fire for three days as I have. I can stand two days without shewing it much; but no man can stand three days: I’m as nervous as a mouse. (He sits down on the ottoman, and takes his head in his hands.) Would you like to see me cry?



COMMENTS:

A great play. Already adapted at least once as a musical (“The Chocolate Soldier”). That adaptation is very traditional and old, so the door is open for you to do a fresh take on this play, which still has a lot to say about war and ethics.


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