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Imran Hossain Khan
  • 3 weeks ago
  • 154
Comment on Sophocles’ use of dramatic irony in ‘Oedipus Rex’

Q.1. Comment on Sophocles’ use of dramatic irony in ‘Oedipus Rex’.

Ans. Dramatic irony is a literary device which reveals the contrast between what the audiences know and what the character thinks he knows.
Usually, the character is ignorant of the meaning of his utterance or of the situation he is in. But the audiences have the advantages of the future consequences of that utterance as they are familiar with the story. Greek tragedians used this rhetorical device as they based their tragedies on the myths and legends which were familiar to the audiences.
Sophocles, one of the three great tragedians of ancient Greece, masterly uses this technique in his grand tragedy ‘Oedipus Rex’. The play is based on the myth of Oedipus, which was well known to the Greek audiences. Sophocles utilizes this foreknowledge of the spectators to create different situations in which irony plays an important role.
The very beginning of the play marks Sophocles’ use of dramatic irony Oedipus, King of Thebes, declares, “I, Oedipus/Whose name is known afar”. But the spectators know that he is the man who has done the most abominable crime. Again, Oedipus, in reply to his people’s supplication, promises that he will do whatever requires to remove their distress.
But little he knows that he is the unclean thing for which Thebes is suffering. Another brilliant example of dramatic irony is revealed through the following lines where he unconsciously curses himself:
“No matter who he may be, he is forbidden Shelter or intercourse with any man In all this country over which I rule”. The encounter between Oedipus and Teiresias is replete with irony. The first irony is that Oedipus calls Teiresias to help him find out the murderer of Laius but he finds himself as the cursed polluter. In fury, he calls the blind prophet a “Shameless and brainless, sightless, senseless sot!” Ironically, it is Oedipus, not Teiresias, who has eyes but cannot see his own damnation.
Sophocles also uses dramatic irony when Oedipus blindly accuses Creon of treachery. The irony lies in the fact that, Oedipus who thinks he is right is proved wrong in the end. Again, it is Oedipus who has to seek forgiveness to Creon when he becomes the King of Thebes.
Moreover, Jocasta also contributes to the dramatic irony of the play. When she hears the death of King Polybus, who Oedipus thinks his real father and leaves to avoid the Oracle’s prediction of parricide and incest, she exclaims, “Where are you now, divine prognostications!” The irony is that Oracle is right all time and the audiences know it.
Even, the entire play can be treated as an example of ironical creation. After all, Oedipus does not know of the fate that awaits him, throughout the play. But the audiences, who have the foreknowledge about the myth, are intensely conscious that, Oedipus, the King of Thebes, will become Oedipus the beggar.
Now, it is quite clear that, dramatic irony plays a significant role to intensify the tragic doom of Oedipus. Sophocles uses this rhetorical device brilliantly, almost in every dialogue, situation and character of the play. For its masterful application, ‘Oedipus Rex’ becomes a classic.


Q.2. Consider the protagonist of ‘Oedipus Rex’ as a tragic hero on Sophoclean concept.

Ans. In tragedy, a tragic hero is a character, usually the protagonist, who has great influence but makes an error in his or her actions for which he or she must suffer the consequences of those actions.
Oedipus in Sophocles’ ‘Oedipus Rex’, has all the characteristics of an ideal tragic hero. Oedipus is a good natured person and has royal blood in his veins. He becomes the King of Thebes for his wisdom and intelligence. But he has some flaws in his character which makes him suffer unequal misery.
According to Aristotle, the first feature of a tragic hero is that he should be neither virtuous nor evil but an intermediate person who is on the side of good. Oedipus is such a man. He is a good man, sympathetic to his subjects. He is moved by the suffering of his people caused by the plague. The following lines reveal his noble heart: “And while you suffer, none suffers more than I. You have your several griefs, each for himself; But my heart bears the weight of my own, and yours And all my people’s sorrows. I am not asleep.”
Besides being a good and noble character, Oedipus by birth is the son of King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes. He was also brought up by Polybus, King of Corinth. So, from both sense he has royal roots. Again, he becomes the King of Thebes by his intelligence and wisdom.
Despite Oedipus noble qualities, he has some flaws in his character and for them he is doomed at the end. The first flaw is that he is stubborn. It is evident when Teiresias refuses to disclose the killer of Laius. Oedipus insists on disclosing the identity of the killer and at one point, Teiresias reveals the truth. His stubbornness is seen once again when he wants to know his parentage from the shepherd though Jocasta repeatedly requests him to stop his search. But when the truth is revealed, he cries out:
“Revealed as I am, sinful in my begetting, Sinful in marriage, sinful in shedding of blood!”
Another flaw in his character is his short temperament. He loses his temper quickly and then acts blindly. The consequence of his bad temper is the murder of King Laius, which he could avoid easily. In fury, he also accuses Teiresias and Creon of treachery. All these tragic flaws are the main cause of his tragic end. His downfall from prosperity to misery, sight to blindness, kinghood to exile, and greatest of men to father killer.
However, Oedipus suffers greatly and no man will know worse suffering than he. He commits patricide and incest but he does everything to avoid those. His suffering exceeds his crime and the
audiences see him as one of them. They feel pity for his misery and also fear that what happens to Oedipus might happen to them.
To conclude, we may say that, Oedipus is a classic example of tragic hero. He enjoys the highest level of reputation and prosperity as a king, as the greatest of man and equal to gods. His downfall is like a heavy rock from high above and it is for his own flaws. At the end, his downfall successfully brings emotional purgation which is the prime aim of tragedy.


Q.3. Exhibit properly ‘King Oedipus’ as a classical tragedy.

Ans. Aristotle defines tragedy in his ‘Poetics’, as “a representation of an action that is worth serious attention, complete in itself, and of some amplitude; in language enriched by a variety of artistic devices appropriate to the several parts of the play; presented in the form of action, not narration; by means of pity and fear bringing about the purgation of such emotions”. By judging this standard, ‘King Oedipus’ has all characteristics to be a classical tragedy.
Firstly, the action of ‘King Oedipus’ is a serious one. The play is about the tragic predicament of a man, Oedipus. Oedipus was destined to commit patricide and incest. He tried to defy his fate. He did everything to save his plague-stricken subjects. He was true to find out the cause of the pestilence, a murder of Laius. But at last, truth came out that Oedipus himself was the killer. To his horror, he also learnt that his effort to avoid the prediction of the Oracle ended in smoke. He became the most ignoble person who killed his father and married his mother. So, he blinded himself and cast himself out of Thebes. Thus, the action of ‘King Oedipus’ is worth serious attention, the helplessness of man to his inexorable fate.
Secondly, the plot of ‘King Oedipus’ is complete in itself. That is, it has a beginning, a middle and an end. Besides, the plot is a complex one preferred by Aristotle. It enriched with variety of artistic devices, such as – reversal and discovery. Moreover, Sophocles also maintains the three unities – unity of action, place and time. There is no sub-plot. The sole concern of the plot devotes to the tragedy of Oedipus. The whole action of the play takes place before the royal palace of Thebes and within the single revolution of the sun.
Thirdly, the Aristotelian tragic hero is an intermediate person and his fall from the zenith of his glory to the nadir of misery is not for vice but for errors of his own. Likewise, the hero of ‘King Oedipus’ is Oedipus, who was a good man. He was of royal root and enjoyed a reputation of a wise man. But he has some flaws in his character and these have made him suffer.
Finally, the main purpose of tragedy is to arouse pity and fear and bring about emotional purgation. ‘King Oedipus’ in this respect is unique. The suffering of Oedipus exceeds his crime. The audiences feel pity to see his misery. At the same time, they fear that what happens to Oedipus may happen to them. The story of Oedipus makes them realize the uncertainty of human happiness and fortune.
Thus, ‘King Oedipus’ fulfils all the criteria that Aristotle proposed for the best tragedy. Above all, the play is the representation of the life of a man who is actually good but suffers miserably for some
inherent faults of his character. His downfall from prosperity to misery shows such vulnerability of human being that is so akin to us.


Q.4. Comment on Shakespeare’s use of disguise in ‘As You Like It’.

Ans. William Shakespeare, writer of ‘As You Like It’, was a master craftsman. He has displayed his great skill in the technique of the use of disguise. In the Elizabethan age, women were not allowed to act on the public stage. The parts of women were played by boys or young men. This absence of actresses had a restricting influence on Shakespeare’s art. Shakespeare tried to overcome that obstacle by disguising many of the heroines of his comedies as boys. Shakespeare uses the technique of disguise to reinforce the irony, develop theme, enhance subtle comic innuendo or make the plot advance.
When Duke Frederick banishes his niece, Rosalind, for the crime of being her father’s daughter, Rosalind and Celia decide to exile themselves to the Forest of Arden. However, the question remains as how they will travel to the forest, considering that, “beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold”. In order to conceal herself from the savagery of thieves and robbers, Rosalind disguises as a man named Ganymede and Celia as a girl named Aliena. Celia’s choice of name, Aliena, means “the lost one”. This name is highly appropriate for her because at the beginning of the play she is indeed the lost one. She is unable to survive without Rosalind. She must therefore lose herself to find herself.
Rosalind’s disguising herself as Ganymede allows her a special kind of freedom. When Rosalind meets Orlando in the Forest of Arden, she talks to him disguised as a rude shepherd boy. She tells him that a man has been going around the forest ruining the trees by carving the name ‘Rosalind’ on them. He admits to being that man and asks if she knows a remedy. The remedy she proposed was that Orlando should come everyday to the cottage where Rosalind and Celia lived. And then, she said, “I will feign myself to be Rosalind and you shall feign to court me in the same manner as you would do if I was Rosalind”. Their mock-wooing scene reinforces the dramatic irony and develops the theme of the play.
Rosalind’s disguise also creates love tangle in ‘As You Like It’. Silvius, a young shepherd, has madly fallen in love with a shepherdess, Phebe. But Phebe instead of responding to his love falls in love with Ganymede who is actually Rosalind. But at the end, Phebe agrees to marry Silvius, when Rosalind sheds her disguise and Phebe discovers that Ganymede is actually a woman.
Rosalind stays in her male disguise because it offers a special kind of freedom. Rosalind’s disguise also gives her a chance to tutor Orlando about love, turning him into an ideal romantic partner and to be united with him.


Q.5. Sketch the character of Rosalind as one of the most brilliant woman characters of Shakespeare’s.

Ans. Rosalind in one of the most unforgettable and most lovable heroines in the entire range of Shakespearean drama as well as of all the characters in ‘As You Like It’. Her character is elaborately and vividly drawn throughout the play.
Rosalind, the heroine of the play is sympathetic by nature. When Orlando is going to enter into a wrestling contest against Charles, she thinks that Orlando will be defeated by Charles and she feels
sympathy for him and tries to dissuade him from fighting against Charles. When Orlando wins the wrestling match, she falls in love with him and gives him her chain as a token of her love.
Being banished by her uncle Duke Frederick, she came to the forest of Arden disguised as a man by the name of Ganymede. Here she meets Orlando writing verses in praise of her beauty. Being disguised as a man, she induces Orlando to make love to her. Here we find her say: “Come, woo me, woo me; for now I am in a holiday humour and like enough to consent.”
In the mock-wooing scene, she shows her ready wit. Here makes two memorable witty remarks. She tells Orlando that world is almost six thousand years old but that in all this time, man has ever died for the sake of his love. She illustrates this idea by citing the case of Troilus and Cressida and the case of Hero and Leander. Her second memorable remark in this scene is:
“Men are April when they woo, December when they wed. Maids are when they are yet maids, but the sky changes when they are wives.”
Rosalind’s intervention in the Silvius-Phebe affair shows her capacity for admonishing others. Silvius is madly in love with Phebe but Phebe shows her callous attitude towards him. Rosalind scolds Silvius for being too servile to Phebe and warns Phebe against continuing to be cruel towards Silvius. Rosalind then urges Phebe to fall upon his knees and to thank heaven for having given her such a faithful lover as Silvius. Eventually, Rosalind does bring about Silvius’ union with Phebe.
Therefore, it can say that, Rosalind is a brilliant woman character. Admired for her intelligence, quick wit and beauty, she is a vital character in ‘As You Like It’.


Q.6. Depict the character of Celia on the basis of your reading the drama ‘As You Like It’.

Ans. Celia is the cousin of Rosalind. The most striking facet of Celia’s character is her deep attachment to Rosalind. The indication of this attachment is given to us in the course of the play.
When Celia’s father Duke Frederick passes the sentence of banishment against Rosalind, she protests against her father’s decision and reminds him that she and Rosalind have slept together, risen at the same time, learned together, played together, eaten together, and like Juno’s swans, have gone everywhere together. When Duke Frederick repeats his decision to banish Rosalind, Celia says to her father:
“Pronounce that sentence then on me, liege. I cannot live out of her company.” Like her cousin Rosalind, Celia has a deeply sympathetic nature. The sight of young Orlando about to enter into a wrestling contest with Charles, moves Celia’s heart as much as it moves Rosalind’s. Thinking that Orlando would be defeated by Charles, she tries to dissuade him from fighting against Charles. Finding him determined to fight Celia, like Rosalind says that she, would like to add her own strength to Orlando’s in order to increase his fighting capacity.
Celia, like Rosalind, has a jovial nature. She always tries to cheer up Rosalind, when Rosalind is in a melancholy mood. In fact, Celia is always ready with amusing remark. Finding Rosalind melancholy because she has fallen in love, Celia says:
“Why cousin, why Rosalind! Cupid have mercy, not a word?”
When Rosalind says that this world is full of thorn, Celia tries to comfort her by suggesting that Rosalind should treat these thorns as burs thorn upon her in holiday foolery.
Celia is as witty as Rosalind is in some scenes of the play. She makes several witty remarks in this play. When Orlando has failed to keep his promise to meet Ganymede (or Rosalind) on the next day, Celia says that the oath of a lover is no more reliable than the word of a barman in a tavern. Then Celia caps all her witty remarks in the following amusing speech in which she describes Orlando mockingly:
“O, that’s a brave man! He writes brave verses, speaks brave words, swears brave oaths, and breaks them bravely…”
Like Rosalind, Celia has a romantic temperament, and falls in love with Oliver at first sight. As Rosalind puts it, Celia’s and Oliver’s falling in love with each other was as sudden as the fight of two male sheep who attack each other without any provocation. In this context, Rosalind recalls Julius Caesar’s rhetorical boast:
“I came, saw and overcame.”
To conclude, we may say that, Celia serves to set off the excellent qualities of Rosalind. Celia possesses all Rosalind’s qualities, but in a lesser measure. So she acts as a foil to Rosalind.


Q.7. Comment on Shakespeare’s use of wit and humour in ‘As You Like It’.

Ans. ‘As You Like It’ is one of Shakespeare’s amusing comedies. It keeps us laughing most of the time because of the abundance of wit and humour presented by Rosalind, Touchstone and Jaques.
Rosalind, the heroine of the play, represented natural and healthy type of humour in this play. We find her laughing over a secret joke with Celia, teasing Orlando and tantalizing Phebe and Silvius. The finest example of Rosalind’s healthy sense of humour and wholesome wit are to be found in her encounter with Orlando and in the mock wooing. Disguised as a man, Rosalind induces Orlando to make love to her and says:
“Come, woo me, woo me; for now I am in a holiday humour and like enough to consent.”
In this scene, she makes another memorable remarks, which is the example of her sparkling wit about the attitude of men and women before and after their marriage. Rosalind says:
“Men are April when they woo, December when they wed. Maids are May when they are yet maids, but the sky changes when they are wives.”
Touchstone is a professional fool and his humour is healthy and free from ill-will. In the course of the play, he mocks at the verse which Rosalind has found on a tree. He parodies her references to her
falling in love with Jane Smile, and that he had taken his revenge upon a rival who too had visited his beloved’s house at the time of the night. Further he kissed the cow’s udder because Jane Smile’s hands had come into contact with the udder when she had milked the cow. He enjoys much fun at the cost of Audrey the women whom he wishes to marry and whom ultimately he does marry. He says about her: “A poor virgin, Sir, an ill-favoured thing, Sir, but mine own.”
Then we come to Jaques cynical wit, which is in direct contrast with that of Rosalind. His humour makes him dissatisfied with life which had made him a pessimist. We find his cynical wit in his division of man’s life into seven parts where he describes only the seamy sides of human beings. At the moment when everyone in the play is in his or her happiest mood, Jaques remains unaffected by the happy situation and he says:
“There is sure another flood toward, and these couples are coming to the ark. Here comes a pair of very strange beasts, which in all tongue are called fools.” To conclude, we may say that, ‘As You Like It’ contains a plenty of gaiety, mirth and joyousness. It has been called the sunniest and the merriest of the comedies of Shakespeare because the sky in the play is never overcast. If the sky does become overcast the clouds are sure to melt away soon, giving way to bright sunshine.


Q.8. Discuss the significance of the title of the play ‘Arms and the Man’.

Ans. The title of the play, ‘Arms and the Man’, was taken from the first line of Dryden’s translation of Virgil, which is “Arms and the Man I sing…” The words thus supply an appropriate title for a play whose main theme is war, though it is interwoven with another theme, namely love. George Bernard Shaw, the writer of the play, in the play, exposes the hollow sentimentalism and romance that has gathered around war in the contemporary society of Shaw’s time.
Shaw’s theme in ‘Arms and the Man’ is that, man is more than arms and war is a silly business. But it is only the imagination of sentimental homestayers who has cast such a halo around the war, making the soldier a hero to be worshipped. Shaw suggests that, the reality of war is dangerous. Soldiers are like other human beings and they are very much afraid of death. They are also subject to hunger. All these ideas are presented through the professional soldier, Bluntschli:
“Raina: Some soldiers, I know, are afraid to die. The Man: All of them, dear lady, all of them, believe me. It is our duty to live as long as we can.”
The play also reveals the disillusion of romantic ideas regarding war by the character of Sergius who becomes a fool trying to show heroism – “It (the cavalry charge) was the cradle and the grave of my military reputation.” So, it is a realistic and unconventional view of soldiering that the dramatist takes in the play. Thus, the title has a bearing on the central theme of the play.
However, the title has been objected in the point that it does not touch upon the other theme of the play – love. Like romantic notion of war, sentimental love that is “higher love” of Sergius and Raina
is satirized by Shaw. It reveals when Sergius fatiguing of “higher love” seeks relief and flirts with Louka, the maid servant, at the back of Raina, his soul’s queen. Raina also loves Bluntschli who with his realistic attitude wins her at last.
But love is only a secondary aspect of the play, occupying the later part of the drama. War is the staple subject and discussion of war looms large throughout the whole play. Again, the treatment of love is the same as war that is anti-romantic and it is also exposed through the character of Bluntschli, the man of arms. Hence, the possible objection to the title may be easily waived aside.
Above all, ‘Arms and the Man’ centres round the background of war and deals with the man-of-arms who loves and fights holding different ideologies of them. It reveals the ridiculous romantic notions of war and love. Therefore, the title is suggested of both the problems raised in the play and its form.


Q.9. Write on the character of Captain Bluntschli on the basis of your reading ‘Arms and the Man’.

Ans. Captain Bluntschli is a unique character portrayed by Bernard Shaw in his romantic comedy ‘Arms and the Man’. Shaw presents Bluntschli as his mouthpiece to convey his philosophy about war and love.
Bluntschli is a realist and has no romantic illusions about love and war. He is intelligent and witty. He can manage anything smoothly and is practical in his approach. His dazzling humour is one of the enjoyable aspects of the play.
The first trait of Captain Bluntschli’s character is his realistic attitude. Like other characters in the play, he has no romantic views about war and soldiering. He is a professional soldier serving in the army many years. He knows very well what war is. He expresses the hollowness of war and heroism to Raina. Bluntschli expresses that soldiers are like common people and all of them actually are afraid of death. He also surprises her disclosing the fact that food is more necessary in war than ammunition. He also stuffs his pocket with food instead of cartridges.
Bluntschli also shows this realistic approach in his love towards Raina. He has no romantic sentimentalism like Sergius. The ground of his love is reality. When he comes to know that Raina loves him and she is old enough, he straightly declares his love to her and proposes to her parents to marry her. To him, love and marriage are necessary for life and there is nothing romantic in them. It is his sincere love and realistic approach through which he wins Raina.
Bluntschli is intelligent. His intelligence is seen in the very opening scene of the play. When he enters Raina’s bedroom, he quickly understands her mentality. Putting down the gun, he takes her gown and threatens her not to shout. Again, he fools the Bulgarians, Sergius and Major Petkoff, and exchanges the captives giving them weak horses. Moreover, he helps Major Petkoff and Sergius in their military activities. Being surprised his intelligence, even his rival Sergius exclaimed in wonder:
“What a man! Is he a man!”
Wit and humour are the two characteristics which make Bluntschli’s character enjoyable. His wit is seen when he says: “nine soldiers out of ten are born fools” or “it is our duty to live as long as we
can”. Again, his description about the cavalry charge of Sergius like Don Quixote produces hilarious laughter. He does not lose his sense of humour when he takes shelter in Raina’s bedroom. He makes fun of Raina’s family name “Petkoff”.
Thus, Shaw portrays Bluntschli as his mouthpiece, a man of intelligence and a man who devoid of any romantic illusions. Bluntschli’s attitude towards war and love is practical but he is not a boring character rather he is witty and humorous.


Q.10. Evaluate ‘Arms and the Man’ as a problem play.

Ans. Problem play is a kind of play that deals with social problems to be solved by the reader or the spectator. In a problem play, the dramatist draws the public attention on the social problems and exposes the follies that lie beneath them. He presents both sides of the problem impartially and leaves the solution to the imagination of the audiences. This kind of play rejects romantic ideas and supports realism.
In ‘Arms and the Man’, George Bernard Shaw, the writer of the play, deals with the problem of romantic illusion about war and love. He ridicules the false romantic notions of war and love.
The romantic notion of war is that, war is something heroic deed. In the war, a soldier gets an opportunity to prove his heroism. The soldier is also ready to sacrifice his life in the war for his motherland. The goal of the soldier in the war is victory or death. The soldier never shows his back in the war. He is never afraid of death.
But in the play, we can see that, the protagonist, Captain Bluntschli, fights as an anti-war soldier. He runs away from the battlefield when his life was in danger. He says without any feeling of shame:
“It is our duty to live as long as we can”. The above line states that, war is not a heroic deed for him.
Another character of the play, Sergius, discovers the realism of war. He wins a battle but receives no promotion. So, he submits his resignation from army. He says that:
“Soldiering is a coward’s act of attacking mercilessly when you are strong and keeping out harms when you are weak”.
And this statement is certainly not a romantic view of heroism. A romantic hero is that, a soldier must fight to win the war. Thus, Shaw shatters the romantic conception of war. He depicts a realistic picture of war and heroism in the play. The romantic view of love is that, love is something pure, divine, emotional, wonderful and touching. A pair of romantic lover adore and worship each other. They love each other from the core of their life. The think that, love is everything and immortal. Each of them is ready to sacrifice anything for his/her beloved. Marriage is an essential outcome of love to them.
According to Shaw, romantic is nothing but hypocrisy. He shows that, romantic lovers deceive and betray each other. That is why, as a realist, he does not approve this notion of love.
Raina and Sergius are two romantic lovers. They are engaged to each other. Hearing the news of Sergius’ victory in the war, Raina worships his image. On Sergius’ return from war, we get a scene of romantic love between them. Raina addresses him as “My Hero”, “My King”. Sergius calls her, “My Queen”, “My Heart”. Raina tells him that, there is a “higher love” or spiritual bond between them. They are very emotional and cannot live without each other, even for a minute. But their “higher love” is merely a deception, a cheat, an irony. As soon as Raina goes out of the sight of Sergius, he makes love to Louka, the maidservant of the Petkoffs. On the other hand, Raina falls in love with Bluntschli in the absence of Sergius. This is the reality of love. Love is not constant. It can change in anytime. Sergius feels that he would be happier with Louka who is physically more exciting than Raina. Besides, Raina used to talk with him about their “higher love” which is tiresome to him. Raina also soon feels disgusted of Sergius and comments :
“Oh what sort of God is this I have been worshiping”?
Thus, Shaw shows that, the so-called “higher love” is a hoax. Concerning marriage, Shaw tries to explain that, there is nothing romantic illusion in marriage. Marriage should be treated from the realistic point of view. And, at the end of the play, we see that, Raina is happy that she is going to marry Bluntschli who possesses not only a vast property but also worldly wisdom. Economic security is essential for a happy conjugal life and Raina and Louka both want to be sure of it. On the other hand, Nicola, the male servant of the Petkoffs, gives up Louka for profit. He thinks that, Louka will be a better customer for him than a wife. Thus, Shaw evaluates that, marriage should be based on economic security and mutual understanding, not on romantic illusions.
To conclude, we may say that, George Bernard Shaw expresses the false romantic sentiments, which people for centuries have attached to war, love and marriage throughout the play. In a problem play, the given problem remain unsolved. But in ‘Arms and the Man’, we see that, Shaw does not leave the problem unsolved. He advocates the cause of realism in the play. Therefore, ‘Arms and the Man’ is not a problem play rather a propaganda play in which the dramatist advocates his own ideas which can be treated as Drama of Ideas.


Q.11. Remarks on G.B. Shaw’s approach towards love and marriage in his famous play ‘Arms and the Man’.

Ans. George Bernard Shaw, the writer of ‘Arms and the Man’, takes a realistic view about love and marriage and exposes the hollowness of romantic love in ‘Arms and the Man’. He does not believe in romantic notions of love and marriage. In the play, he admits the value of love in human life and presents a matter of fact attitude towards marriage.
Raina and Sergius are two apostles of romantic love. They are engaged to each other. When Raina learns from his mother that Sergius has won a great victory at the battle of Slivnitza, she becomes wild in joy. She thinks that all her heroic ideas about Sergius have been proved true. She takes the portrait of Sergius. She worships the portrait like a priestess and addresses it as the hero of her soul.
When Sergius returns from the battle field, Raina idealises him as a hero and a king. Sergius also idealises her as a queen. She tells him that they have found “higher love”, and in this state of “higher love” when he is in her mind, she can do nothing base or think anything ignoble. She also asserts that he has been always present in her mind. Sergius reciprocates this “higher love” by saying that, all his deeds of bravery were possible only on account of the inspiration that he got from her. His love and devotion to her gave him courage to fight like a knight in a tournament with his lady looking down at him.
Soon afterwards, when Raina goes out of his sight, he sheds his romantic illusions. His sexual instinct is stirred by the physical charm of the maid-servant, Louka. He makes amorous advances towards her. At that time, she informs him that, while he is making love to her behind Raina’s back, Raina is also doing the same thing behind his back. She also poisons his ear by saying that, Raina will marry the Swiss officer, if he comes back again.
Raina’s romantic illusion about love begins to break when she meets Bluntschli. Bluntschli tells her what is true about life and war. He describes Sergius’ cavalry charge from a realistic point of view. He tells her that the leader of the cavalry charge was not like a real hero. He led the charge like an utter fool. He tried to show his bravery but did not realise that if the Serbians had the right kind of ammunition in their machine guns, the Bulgarians could be massacred, It lowers her ideas about Sergius. She begins to feel sympathy for Bluntschli. She gives him shelter and chocolates. When he is to leave the house in the morning, she gives him the old coat in the pocket of which she puts her photograph with the inscription: “Raina to her Chocolate Cream Soldier: a Souvenir” intending for Bluntschli. Being jealous, Sergius accuses Raina of loving Bluntschli and of allowing him to make love to her behind his (Sergius’) back. He also accuses her of being received him (Bluntschli) in her bedroom late at night. Raina wonders:
“Oh, what sort of god is this I have been worshipping!”
Then she also accuses him of flirting with the maid servant, Louka. She realises Sergius’ real character and becomes completely disillusioned about him and begins to feel even more drawn towards Bluntschli.
Hence, both Raina and Sergius get rid of their “higher love”. Sergius’ romantic love for Raina vanishes at the touch of his real passion for Louka. When he is exposed, he declares to marry Louka and Louka, on her parts, accepts him because it is her ambition to marry a person above her station. Raina agrees to marry Bluntschli as she finds him a practical minded man with great common sense and lot of firsthand knowledge of life and human nature. She also finds in him economic security and comfort.
Thus, Shaw shows that love is not a romance but a reality. According to him, love and marriage should be based on mutual understanding and economic security.

Q.12. Make a comparative study between the characters of Raina and Louka.

Ans. Raina and Louka are two important but contrasting characters of the play ‘Arms and the Man’ by George Bernard Shaw. Shaw’s intention is to expose contrast between romantic ideals of war and love and their realities in portraying such opposing characters. Raina with romantic illusion represents idealism while Louka represents realism. Raina is the heroine of the play. In fact, the play centres round her character, her development from snob to a mature young woman. She is portrayed as a young lady “intensely conscious of her own youth and beauty”. She holds romantic ideals about life as part of her aristocratic upbringing. Though she doubts about the heroic ideals of Sergius, she worships her finance after hearing his gallantry at Slivnitza. Her love for Sergius is equally idealistic. But all her romantic notions about war and heroism shatter when she faces the fugitive, Bluntschli. She learns that there is nothing glorious in war and soldiers are just common humans. Her “higher-love” with Sergius also stumbles realizing its absurdities. Soon, she falls in love with Bluntschli for his rational attitude. Besides, Shaw portrays his heroine as intelligent and witty. She saves Bluntschli from the Russians and calls him “Chocolate Cream Soldier”. She is also sympathetic, kind and full of humanity. In fine, her transformation shows the absurdities of romantic ideals.
On the other hand, Louka is Shaw’s second dynamic character, first being Bluntschli, in the play. She is a maidservant of the Petkoffs. Her first appearance, “a handsome proud girl in a Bulgarian peasant’s dress with double apron”, suggests that she is more than a mere servant. She possesses a soul which is ambitious to gain a status in society. She is beautiful and clever. With her shrewdness, she finally achieves what she desires. Again, in contrast to Raina who is romantic and idealistic, Louka is quite realist and practical in her attitude towards life. Though a maidservant, she has the ability to judge a man like Sergius whom Raina hails so high. She realizes how hollow and fragmented his “higherlove” for Raina is. Through her charm and intelligence, she wins Sergius as her suitor though she was initially engaged to Nicola, the male-servant. Moreover, Louka is bold enough to proclaim her love and her status. Her consciousness of her position in the society suggests the breakdown of traditional status quo. In short, Louka represents Shaw’s idea about social ability.
To conclude, we may say that, Raina and Louka are entirely two opposite characters. Raina embodies what is romantic and idealistic in life. By contrast, Louka is a realist devoid of any romantic illusions.


Q.13. How does destiny work in ‘Riders to the Sea’? Or, Role of Sea/Role of Fate/Use of Nature.

Ans. John Millington Synge, the writer of ‘Riders to the Sea’, uses Nature as background, character and symbol in plays. The play ‘Riders to the Sea’ is one of them where Nature fills the minds of the characters and mounds their actions, even their moods and Fate.
In ‘Riders to the Sea’, the Sea plays an important role. We feel the presence of sea throughout the play, although it always remains in the offstage. However, it dominates the action of the play as a character. It influences all the characters lives as an antagonist. It remains in the thoughts of characters and their conversation. It provides an essential background to the play and contributes to the atmosphere of terror and mystery.
The Sea of the play represents Fate which is a great fact in the life of the people of the Aran Islands. Sea is the only source of their living. Moreover, the Sea gives them passage to the markets in the mainland where they go to sell and buy their daily goods. As there is no alternative option, they have to go across the Sea to the mainland to sell their goods and to make their purchases.
The Sea is introduced in the scene at the very opening in Nora and Cathleen’s conversation about Michael’s drowning in the Sea. Although, the Sea is never visible, its presence is declared by the gusty wind that bursts open the half closed door as if it was angry monster about to devour them all. When Maurya as well as Bartley enters the scene, the Sea becomes the opposing force, the antagonist. Maurya tries in vain to prevent Bartley from going down to the Sea as she fears that it will not spare her last surviving son. She is well aware of the nature of the cruel villain, the Sea. Thus, the brooding Sea takes the upper hand in the action of the play as a living character.
The Sea is also invested with supernatural suggestions. It is the archetypal symbol of Fate. The riders are men who are engulfed by the dark, mysterious and inscrutable Fate. The Sea and humanity are mysteriously interlocked. It has taken a heavy toll of the eight lives of the poor peasants family of Maurya. When her last son is drowned, she is relieved at the thought that, the Sea can do no more harm to her. This is the heart rending sorrow of the bereaved mother.
Above all, the Sea contributes to creating a supernatural atmosphere, essential for tragic doom by supplying necessary background to the play. There is the suggestion of the sombre aspect of Nature – dark moorlands, bare craggy hills, the howling hags, surf on the white rocks tec.
Thus, the Sea not only becomes a background but also a living character hungering after men throughout the play. The ruthless and cruel hand of Maurya’s Fate forcibly led Bartley to his death to complete her tragedy. Thus, it is the inevitability of Fate which is the shape of Nature dominates the action of the play.


Q.14. Evaluate ‘Riders to the Sea’ as a modern tragedy with classical setting.

Ans. ‘Riders to the Sea’, a one-act play, is comparable to Greek tragedy in its form and technique, theme and effect.
The tragedy has been built around the classical theme: man fighting against fate maintaining the three unities. There are characters in it assuming the role of chorus, off-stage performance, effective use of powerful irony and forebodings – all typical of Greek tragedy. Moreover, the effect that the play constitutes, the rise of pity and terror and their purgation, is Hellenic in nature.
An incessant struggle between man and unbeatable fate is a common theme of Greek tragedies. In ‘Riders to the Sea’, the sea is the cruel fate against which Maurya’s family has been set. The unconquerable sea defeats the will of Maurya repeatedly killing all the male members of the family one after another. This classical view of life against fate has been dramatized maintaining Greek convention of three unities as it stages events of few hours, focuses on a single story about the tragedy of a family in Maurya’s cottage kitchen without any digression or subplot.
Like a typical Greek tragedy, at the opening, the conversation of Nora and Cathleen serves as prologue explaining Maurya’s brooding over Michael’s uncertain fate. Like chorus, they expose that Michael has been lost in the sea for nine days. Their comments arouse a sense of uncertainty. As the action proceeds, Maurya also assumes the role of chorus revealing the tragic demise of her husband, father-in-law and five sturdy sons drawing much pity from the audience. Like the chorus, she tries hard to dissuade Bartley from going to the sea.
The effect of dramatic irony is as tragic as that found in Greek tragedies. For instance, Nora reports the priests words thus “ ‘she’ll be getting her death’ says he ‘with crying and lamenting.’ ” It is indeed Maurya’s lamenting that prevents her from giving her blessing to Bartley and thus leads to his death. God won’t leave Maurya “destitute with no son living” is another ironic comment by the priest. There are ironies in the play upon the vernacular usage of the word ‘destroyed’. Nora says: “And it’s destroyed he’ll be going till dark night”. Cathleen reinforces the effect: “It’s destroyed he’ll be, surely.” Similarly, there are uses of premonitions and forebodings which appeal to our sense of pity and terror. A simpler, but still classical use of foreboding speech occurs when Maurya says to Bartley:
“What way will I live and the girls with me, and I an old woman looking for the grave?”
The premonition comes true with Bartley’s knocking down to the sea by the grey pony. The old woman keening functions as the Greek Chorus and the two women who report Bartley’s death take the role of Greek Messenger. The announcement of Bartley’s death that has taken place off-stage and Maurya’s acceptance of her lot with calm resignation purges our feeling of pity and fear. Her acceptance of her lot with resignation lends her the status of a tragic hero. At the end of the play, Maurya is seen very calm and anxiety free. Her consolation to herself sounds one of the messages of the Greek tragedy: “No man at all can be living for ever, and we must be satisfied.”
To conclude, we may say that, though Maurya does not apparently have any hamartia, her suffering at the hand of cruel fate arouses much pity and fear in the audience. Though, the play is written in modern age by an Irishman, it contains the setting of classical tragedy.


Q.15. What picture of the life of the islanders do you get in ‘Riders to the Sea’?

Ans. John Millington Synge’s ‘Riders to the Sea’ is undoubtedly a regional play with a local colouring. It gives a vivid account of the life and manners of the poor islanders off the West-Coast of island. Synge’s deep and intimate acquaintance with the life of the poor, innocent and simple hearted peasantry has enabled him to re-capture the beauty and poetry of their life.
Born and brought up as they are in the island, their life has been inextricably tied up with moorlands, rugged chiffs, windy heaths, and howling seas. They cultivate their small plots of land, but land, being rocky as it is alone can’t give them the necessary subsistence. Hence, they take to fishing in the sea around. They can’t do, they can’t subsist without venturing out on the sea. Maurya seeks to prevent her only surviving son from crossing over the stormy sea saying:
“He wasn’t go this day with the wind rising the south and west.”
But Bartley will have to go to the mainland for selling the horses.
The dark landscape, the monotony of the wave, the simple dignity of the Islanders and their customs, dresses, festivals have in them, the elements of a fairy tale, yet the tragic overtone is unmistakable even the most ordinary things of life are made to have tragic implication life for them in a unending sorrow. They are in horrible economic plight. The women folk work at the spinning wheels, mend tom pieces of cloths and cook their simple food. The men folk rear sheep, pigs and horses and make ashes out of the sea weeds for the manufacture of soda and potash. They make fuel out of the decomposed vegetable matter because they can’t afford earthy fuel.
Poverty and sufferings are then the part and parcel of life of these people. Man jet drowned and dies every now and then. The peculiarity of the circumstances of their life is that whether they like or not they can’t but take risk in sailing ever the perilous sea. If they do not take risk, they will have to starve at home. There in lies the predicament of their life. The sea by delivering the successive blows to them has made them fatalist. Maurya realises in the end that which is totalled for them can’t be blotted. She has learnt from her own experience that what cannot be cured must be endured.
Thus, Synge in his play, ‘Riders to the Sea’, has faithfully reproduced the inner beauty and harmony in the life of these primitive islanders who have not yet lost the poetry of an imaginative life by sophistication.


Q.16. “Wole Soyinka’s play ‘The Lion and the Jewel’ is about the victory of traditional values over western ones”. – Discuss.

Ans. The traditions and customs of Yoruba are typically presented in ‘The Lion and the Jewel’, an African play. One of primary conflicts of the play pits traditional Yoruba customs against a western conception of progress and modernity of Ilujinle, a typical village in Africa, as presented by the conflict between Baroka and Lakunle for Sidi’s hand in marriage.
Lakunle represents the modern Nigerian man. He wears western clothes, has been educated in a British school and wants to modernize his village. Lakunle does not just admire and idolise western society, he actively and loudly despises the traditional customs of his village and the people who support them. This is best illustrated by Lakunle’s refusal to pay Sidi’s bride–price. Sidi indicates that she would marry Lakunle anytime if he would only pay the bride–price and observe the local custom. Bride–price is the money or property given by the bridegroom to the family of his bride. This is a common practice in Africa. According to the custom of Africa, it is honour to the bride who receives a good price. If a girl marries without any bride–price, she will be a laughing stock to the villagers because she will be suspected of losing her virginity. It is believed that the girl who has lost her virginity or chastity are compelled to marry without bride–price. Therefore, Sidi sticks to the tradition and refuses to marry Lakunle without bride–price. On the other hand, Lakunle tells her that he does not want to make her a traditional wife. To him, if he pays bride–price, the relationship between husband and wife will be a cold one. He compares the payment of bride–price to buying a heifer off the market stall. He also tells her that, if he pays the bride–price, she will be regarded as his personal property. But Lakunle cannot uphold his modernity as she cannot give up traditional values.
The competition between Baroka and Lakunle for Sidi’s hand in marriage brings the conflict between tradition and modernity to life. Baroka wishes to add Sidi to his harem of wives, while Lakunle dreams of having one wife. Both men promise Sidi a different version of power and fulfilment. When Baroka dies, Sidi will become the head of the new Bale, a position that would make her one of the most powerful women in the village. On the other hand, Lakunle offers Sidi the possibility of an equal partnership in which she is not required to serve her husband as is traditional. But Sidi recognises that Lakunle’s idea of modernity might not improve her life. In fact, it might mean that she would have less power and fewer rights than she would have in a traditional marriage.
Chastity is another traditional value. After Sidi’s seduction, Lakunle offers to marry her in spite of her loss of virginity. But Sidi cannot accept his proposal. As Baroka has had sex with her, she cannot take any other man as her husband. So, she chooses old Baroka for her husband instead of young Lakunle. Her decision is due to the concept of chastity. She chooses Baroka because of the old tradition of marrying and living with only one man. Now, it is quite clear that, the traditional value of Ilujinle wins over the western spirit. As the villagers of Ilujinle lived in a traditional–ridden society, they cannot welcome western civilization and remain confined to their own tradition and custom.


Q.17. Discuss the themes of Wole Soyinka’s play ‘The Lion and the Jewel’.

Ans. Wole Soyinka’s play, ‘The Lion and the Jewel’, is a post-colonial literary work which contains several themes.
The most important theme of the play is the conflict between traditional values and modernity. Baroka, the head of the village, represents the tradition who respects the traditional customs of Yoruba community. On the other hand, Lakunle, a village teacher, represents modernity, who admires western culture and tries to establish western values in his community. He reveals his plan to modernize the area by abolishing bride-price, building a motor road to connect the village with town. The expresses his sorrow that, Baroka prevented the building a railroad bridge through the village. Though Baroka respects tradition, he says that, he does not hate progress. So, he buys a machine to produce postal stamp. Sidi, the jewel of the village, is a representative of the people who cannot go outside their customs. Both Lakunle and Baroka want to marry her. Lakunle refuses to maintain tradition and wants to marry her without bride-price. But Sidi refuses to marry Lakunle without bride-price. According to tradition of Yoruba community, bride-price is the honour for the girl who gets it. If a girl marries without bride-price, she is suspected of losing her virginity. It is believed that the girls who have lost their virginity or chastity are compelled to marry without brideprice. So, Sidi rejects Lakunle’s proposal. Thus, she maintains the traditional value. And, at the end of the play, we see that, Sidi marries Baroka as she has had sex with him, she cannot take any other man as her husband. So, she chooses old Baroka for her husband instead of young Lakunle. Her decision is due to the concept of chastity. Thus, in the conflict between tradition and modernity, tradition wins.
Another important theme of the play is the influence of colonialism. Nigeria was a British colony for a long time. The British rulers left the colony but did not leave the influence. Lakunle’s clothes show that he has rejected the traditional dress of his village. In fact, his clothing, his words, his learning and his callous foolishness indicate Britain’s impact on Nigeria. Lakunle rejects a traditional element of the marriage bond – the bride-price. He thinks that paying bride-price for marrying a woman, is an uncivilized custom. However, for this reason, he fails to win the heart of Sidi.
Another theme of the play is pride. Sidi takes pride of her beauty. She wastes no time in reminding Lakunle that she is beautiful. Her pride level increases when he sees her image on the front page of the magazine. In fact, he thinks herself more powerful than Baroka who is shown next to the village toilet in a small image. It is clear that, images have power. The scorn of the village girls about Baroka suggests that images can raise or lower position or power.
To conclude, we may say that, as a modern drama, ‘The Lion and the Jewel’ deals with modern themes. Though short, the play can be read from various points of view.


Q.18. How would you interpret Sidi’s decision to marry Baroka in ‘The Lion and the Jewel’?

Ans. Sidi, a village beauty of sixteen or seventeen, centres round the plot of ‘The Lion and the Jewel’. Lakunle, a young man of about twenty-three wants to marry her but at the end of the play, Sidi’s hand is won by Baroka, an old man of sixty-two.
Lakunle is infatuated with Sidi and wants to marry her but without paying bride-price. Sidi is ready to respond to his infatuation but wants her bride-price. She tells him that she will marry him any day, if her bride-price is paid first. If she marries him without any bride-price, she will be a laughing stock to the villagers. She does not want to be a cheap object of hatred of the village people. Bride-price is the honour for the girl who gets it. If a girl marries without bride-price, she is suspected of losing her virginity. It is believed that the girls who have lost their virginity or chastity are compelled to marry without bride-price. So, Sidi refuses to marry Lakunle without bride-price. Thus, Sidi’s attitude towards Lakunle is positive in the beginning of the play.
On the other hand, in the beginning of the play, Sidi’s attitude towards Baroka is negative. When Sadiku, head wife of Baroka, offers her to marry Baroka, she rejects the proposal on the grounds that he is too old for her. She is also proud of her beauty. After the printing of her photographs in the magazine, she realizes that she possesses more beauty than that of a goddess. She tells Sadiku that the printing of her images in the magazine brings her fame and worth more than Baroka. She thinks that being jealous of her beauty, Baroka wants to possess her as his personal property. To Sidi, Baroka wants to marry her to seek new fame by possessing the “jewel” (Sidi).
But, when Sidi learns from Sadiku that Baroka has lost his manhood, she goes to mock him and is seduced by him. Lakunle then offers to marry her in spite of her loss of virginity but refuses to pay the bride-price. But Sidi cannot accept his offer because Baroka has taken her virginity. She in no longer able to take any other man as her husband. So, she chooses Baroka for her husband instead of Lakunle. Her decision is due to the concept of chastity. She would have chosen young Lakunle to marry, but her loss of virginity makes her to marry the old Baroka. Her respect for chastity prevents
her from accepting the proposal of Lakunle. She decides to marry Baroka not for his manliness but for the age old tradition that a woman should marry and live with only one man.
Thus, at the end of the play, common-sense prevails on Sidi which changes her attitude towards marriage and her choice of husband.

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Imran Hossain Khan


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