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Mother Courage

Bertolt Brecht

Character List

Plot Overview

Analysis of Major Characters

Note: Mother Courage features a multitude of minor characters, most of whom named by their social position or military position (e.g. Young Peasant or Sergeant), who encounter Mother Courage through the course of her journeys. This list does not include them.

Mother Courage  -  The play's wise woman. Courage delivers shrewd commentary on the realities of the war.

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Kattrin  -  Courage's dumb daughter. Undergoes a lot of trauma during the war, and ends up disfigured.

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Eilif -  The first child Mother Courage loses to the army. Eilif is the warlike son, eager to join the war and carry out its brutal business. Ostensibly, his fatal virtue is his Caesar-like "bravery," though the accolades he receives are certainly in question. His rise to power—reflected in his costume—involves nothing more than a series of cunning, murderous raids on the local peasantry, raids motivated by the need to keep his men fed.
Swiss Cheese -  The first of Mother Courage's children to die. Swiss Cheese suffers from an excessive sense of duty and honesty and ultimately dies because of it—in other words, during the war, his virtues cost him his life. Courage instills these qualities in him because he is not particularly bright.
Cook  -  The Chaplain's rival for Courage's affections and bread. The Cook is an aging Don Juan, a bachelor long past his prime. Darkly ironic, he is all too aware of the war as a continuation of business as usual, continually unmasking the divinely inspired military campaign as another massive profit scheme. In understanding his social position, he bears no loyalty to the rulers who would exploit him: as he tells the Chaplain, he does not eat the King's bread but bakes it.

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Chaplain -  One of two characters dependent on Mother Courage as their "feedbag." The Chaplain initially appears as a cynical, wooden character. He remains loyal to the Swedish monarchy and the campaign as a war of religion though cannot but notice the horrors around him. The Chaplain also reveals more sympathetic qualities, particularly when he defies Courage and attempts to save the local peasants at the Battle of Magdeburg. At Magdeburg, the Courage Model Book shows him recalling a sense of his former importance and understanding himself as someone oppressed by the war. Indeed, as he will tell the Cook, his life as a tramp makes it impossible to return to the priesthood and all its attendant beliefs.

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Yvette Pottier  -  Initially appearing as a camp prostitute, Yvette is the only character who will make her fortune through the war, marrying and inheriting the estate of a lecherous old Colonel. A woman ruined by the war, she mourns her lost love yet remains bent on securing her interests. Brecht underlines the price she pays for her wealth with her "disfigurement," Yvette returning obese and grotesque after her years of marriage. Notably, Yvette functions as both a sort of object lesson and object of fascination for Kattrin. She would at once harden Kattrin to love and embody a feminine eroticism that Kattrin playfully imitates.

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