Business practices

Deemed a "damned soul" in the Model Book, Mother Courage works tirelessly, resting only once in the course of the play. Her haggling, careful inventory, and so on frame and punctuate the action, emphasizing its underlying the social gestus. Courage always protects her interests shrewdly, inquiring into the fate of the war with only her profit in mind. Her practices emerge from the social conditions that determine the characters, committing her to the war. Ultimately she will lose each of her children as a result. Moreover, as the final scene chillingly shows, so ritualized are these practices that Courage will not learn from her losses.


Written in the midst of the growing Nazi terror, Mother Courage would impel its spectators to oppose war. In this respect it features a number of moments of capitulation as object lessons: most notably, the withdrawal of Courage and the Young Soldier from the captain's tent in Scene Four and the submission of the peasants in Scene 11. Mother Courage emphasizes the ritual character of capitulation. Years of war have frozen the people into fixed patterns of surrender and lamentation. Standing against these surrenders is Kattrin, disfigured and silenced by war trauma to which she continually bears witness, who risks both livelihood and life to save a town under surprise attack.


Against Mother Courage—a mother who fails to protect her children—the play places Kattrin. Her kindness involves an impulse to mother in opposition to her mother's coldhearted business sense. As the Model Book notes, if Courage's war spoils consist of the loot she can scavenge, Kattrin's are the children she saves. Notably, her heroic intervention—one that breaks her stony silence—is the salvation of the children of Halle.