Mother Courage

by: Bertolt Brecht

Scenes Four and Five

The Chaplain brings in a wounded woman and peasant who stayed behind to protect their farm. All look to the unmoved Courage. Kattrin threatens her with a board. The Chaplain lifts her off the wagon, takes out the shirts, and begins tearing them in strips. From the house comes the cry of a child in pain. Kattrin rushes into the collapsing building.

Torn in two directions, Courage anxiously watches for Kattrin and warns the Chaplain to go easy on her linen. Kattrin emerges triumphantly with a baby. Courage commands that she return it to its mother. Kattrin rocks the baby and hums a lullaby. Courage demands that the victory marches stop; the victory has only cost her money. She sees a soldier trying to make off with a bottle of schnapps and snatches his fur coat as payment. The Chaplain murmurs that there is still someone in the farmhouse.

Analysis

Scene Four is a scene of education and capitulation is its lesson. As Brecht notes in the Courage Model Book, it features Courage as the soldier's teacher, instructing him on the impermanence of his rage and their automatic deference to authority that they share. This deference involves a collective submission. Thus, they will all sit when commanded and not rise again in revolt. Similarly, note how the pronouns of the "Song of the Great Capitulation" shift from "you" to "we." Courage herself learns by teaching, capitulating once she realizes the limit of her own rage.

For Brecht, this scene shows Courage at her most depraved. At the same time, she remains aware and angered by her depravity. Note in this respect the ironic parenthetical remarks that interject into the "Song." These remarks and other devices similarly "alienating" her lesson carry with them a certain political urgency. Brecht considers this scene especially dangerous if played without techniques of alienation, fearing that it might seduce the audience into the pleasures of capitulation.

Scene Five elaborates on Courage's depravity further. Brecht understands this scene as presenting a "new Courage." Having lost her son, she defends the wagon and its merchandise with her teeth bared. So attached is she to the wagon that she appears torn between it and her daughter. Bent on protecting her own interests, Courage becomes complicit in the suffering of the war's victims. Though ultimately the Chaplain tends to the wounded, the scene denies the audience any momentary relief, cathartic or otherwise, which this act might offer. Instead, it ends with Courage's crude act of theft and the indication that others remain in the crumbling farmhouse, refusing to release the spectator from the realities of war.

This scene also develops a number of characters. As noted in the Model Book, the Chaplain to this point has appeared as an ineffectual, pious, and wooden man who rather tenuously hangs onto the wagon as an outsider needing protection. Thus, he decidedly does not intervene into the horror around him. For example, recall Courage's haggling over Swiss Cheese. In deying Courage and attempting to save the victims of Tilly's victory, he regains a sense of his old importance and Brect comes to understand himself as someone oppressed by war as well.