Mother Courage and her three children encounter a sergeant and officer recruiting soldiers for the Swedish campaign in Poland. Courage discusses her views about the war and tells them that they, along with her children, will all share the same fate. The family departs after the officer takes her son Eilif out for a drink and after her daughter Kattrin screams and leaps out of the wagon.
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Courage journeys through Poland with the Swedish army and argues with a cook to buy a rooster from her. The Commander and Eilif enter, and Eilif recounts the story of a recent raid in which he was able to fend off peasants. The Commander commends Eilif’s victory. Eilif embraces Courage who rebukes him for failing to back down when the peasants attacked him.
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Scene Three: Part I
Courage, accompanied by Kattrin and her other son Swiss Cheese, bargain with an officer over a bag of bullets. After hearing a story from Yvette, the camp prostitute, Courage warns Kattrin against the military, and later berates her when Kattrin dons Yvette’s attire.
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Scene Three: Part II
To no avail, Kattrin warns Swiss Cheese that men are searching for him after he stole a cash box. Swiss Cheese is caught. Courage, wanting to buy Swiss Cheese’s freedom, sends Yvette to bribe one of his captors, but Courage learns that he rejects the offer and plans to execute Swiss Cheese. Swiss Cheese is killed.
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As Courage argues with a clerk over business concerns, a soldier enters and threatens to murder the captain for an injustice done to him.
In a war-ravaged village, Courage and Kattrin serve soldiers at a counter. When a child is heard crying in a house nearby, Kattrin rushes into the collapsing building and emerges with a baby that Courage demands she return, but Kattrin keeps holding it.
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Courage ruminates on the death of Commander Tilly, and after the Chaplain gives his thoughts on the war, Courage resolves to buy new supplies. While Kattrin is away procuring supplies, the Chaplain tries and fails to court Courage. Suddenly an injured Kattrin returns, and Courage curses the war.
Courage declares that the war will not spoil her.
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When peace is declared, Courage curses, as she has just purchased new supplies for her business. While Courage is away in town, Eilif is brought to the camp to see his mother one last time before being taken away for a crime. When Courage returns, the war has resumed.
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The cook tells Courage that he has inherited his family’s inn and that he would like Courage to accompany him, but he says Kattrin must stay behind due to her disfigurement. Courage thinks over what to do and decides that she cannot leave Kattrin behind, and they go on their way.
Courage and Kattrin stop outside a prosperous farmhouse to listen to the singing inside.
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While Courage is off haggling for supplies, Kattrin learns of a regiment threatening to destroy a small town and decides to intervene by beating a drum on top of a roof that deters the soldiers. Though the peasants in town and the soldiers threaten Kattrin, she continues to beat the drum. When a soldier shoots her, Kattrin’s final drumbeat mingles with the sound of a thundering cannon in the distance. Though she dies, she has saved the town.
Courage sits by Kattrin’s body, believing that she has simply fallen asleep and sings her a lullaby. Upon regaining her senses, Courage covers Kattrin’s body and resolves to go to Eilif. Courage pays the peasants to bury Kattrin and expresses that she must return to business.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Scenes Eleven & Twelve