Places: Mother Courage and Her Children

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder, 1949 (English translation, 1941)

First produced: 1941, at the Schauspielhaus, Zurich, Switzerland

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Play of ideas

Time of work: 1624-1648

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Sweden

*Sweden Mother Courage and Her Children*Germany, and *Poland. European countries in which the play is ostensibly set during the Thirty Years’ War of the early seventeenth century. Settings for the play are accomplished via legends displayed or projected for the audience to read, along with small or suggestive bits of scenery or stage properties. The play, with the exception of Mother Courage’s canteen wagon, could easily be performed without any scenery or setting. Brecht’s time frame also creates anachronisms, as he makes no concession to the diction or costuming of the seventeenth century. The play’s apparently modern characters are vital if the audience is to understand that the drama is not actually about the Thirty Years’ War, but about wars in general. The play is universal and timeless in its appeal.

Known for his creation of Epic Theatre, Brecht seeks to alienate his audience by his use of the V effect, thereby destroying the illusion of reality. It is necessary that the audience always remember that they are viewing a performance so that the play’s message can get through to them. If the audience is alienated, it is objective; therefore, the working components of the stage must always show through to the audience, and the appearance of reality must be avoided. Throughout the twelve brief scenes of the play, even though the locales may change, the emphasis is never on the place but rather on the characters and their actions.

BibliographyDemetz, Peter, ed. Brecht. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1962. Essay on Mother Courage and Her Children focuses on the “Song of the Great Capitulation,” Brecht’s Marxism and pessimism, and epic theater.Esslin, Martin. Brecht: The Man and His Work. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1960. Critical study of Brecht, including biography, poetry, the theory and practice of Brechtian theater, and Brecht’s relationship to the Communists.Fuegi, John. Bertolt Brecht: Chaos, According to Plan. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Discusses the theater of Brecht’s time and how he changed it. Section on Mother Courage and Her Children focuses on the 1949 Berlin production and how Brecht’s staging reinforced meaning.Lyon, Charles R. Bertolt Brecht: The Despair and the Polemic. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1968. A close reading of seven major Brecht plays, including Mother Courage and Her Children.Speirs, Ronald. Bertolt Brecht. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987. An introduction to Brecht’s works, focusing on the balance between the intellect and the emotional response produced by the plays. In-depth analysis of Mother Courage and Her Children and four of Brecht’s other plays.
Categories: Places