Mother Courage

by: Bertolt Brecht

The Chaplain

Characters The 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, for example, his reaction to Eilif's raid. This cynicism reaches its height after the surprise attack by the Catholics, which rips him from his social station and leaves him precariously dependent on Courage's wagon. Bitterly, the Chaplain will advise Courage to buy new supplies. The war can only prevail. After all, though degrading, it provides for all base human needs—eating, drinking, screwing, and sleeping. Like love, it will always find a way to go on.

The Chaplain also reveals more sympathetic qualities, particularly when he defies Courage and attempts to save the local peasants at the Battle of Magdeburg. To this point, he appears as a sort of outsider, refraining from intervening in Courage's practices for fear of jeopardizing his position. At Magdeburg, the 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.

Eventually the Chaplain falls for Courage. Focused on survival, she denies him, refusing his demands that she drop her defenses and let her heart speak. The arrival of the Cook will spark a rivalry over both Courage's affections and bread. When both men believe that Courage has rejected them, they reminisce about the good times they shared together in the service of the Swedish Commander. Apparently, like Courage, they have learned little from their suffering during the war.