In 1632, the canteen sits before the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt during the funeral of Commander Tilly. Mother Courage and Kattrin take inventory while the Chaplain and a Clerk play draughts. They sit inside the canteen tent and outside it rains.
Counting her merchandise, Courage ruminates on Tilly's death. Courage confesses her pity for the Commander: men of his stripe undoubtedly leave special plans unaccomplished, something worthy of a monument. These plans are always spoiled by the "littleness" of the underlings who should carry them out. The Chaplain laughs at her subtly subversive speech. She asks him if he thinks the war will end; she needs to know if she should buy more supplies.
The Chaplain responds that heroes grow on trees and that, though the war might be imperfect, someone will always pull it out of the hole. A Soldier at the counter begins singing a cynical call to battle. Scandalized, the Clerk asks the Chaplain what he thinks of peace. The Chaplain responds that war has its islands of peace. Moreover, it satisfies all needs. You can take a crap, drink, screw, nap, and onward. War is like love—it always finds a way.
Courage resolves to buy new supplies. Kattrin bangs a basket of glasses on the ground and runs out, distraught. Courage has promised her a husband come peacetime. Courage goes back and consoles her daughter. She then sends her to town with the Clerk to fetch some supplies and they exit.
The Chaplain commends Courage on her courage. She replies that the poor need it because they need it to wake in the morning, plough their field during wartime, raise their children, face each other, and suffer rulers who would cost them their lives. She sits, smokes her pipe, and asks the Chaplain to chop her some wood.
He comments on the pipe. Upon learning that it comes from the Cook, he jealously maligns its owner's character, angrily bringing the ax down on the chopping block. Courage warns him against breaking the block. The Chaplain laments that he has no talent for physical labor. He is a great preacher, rousing his listeners out of their senses and providing them with warmth. Courage responds that she needs her senses, and that firewood provides warmth best. Brandishing his ax, the Chaplain pursues his courtship: he wants to cement his bond with Courage. Courage refuses him laughingly.