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Brecht lecture
Augsburg 1898
East Berlin 1956
Middle class
Nazi black list-books burned-wife was Jewish
Exile from 1933-1949
Created the Berliner Ensemble Theater in Berlin
What are some of the differences between Mother
Courage and some of the other plays we’ve read?
Aristotelian Theatre
Emotional catharsis- an audience identifies with the
hero and feels what the characters feel=to evoke
Naturalism/ Realism –suspension of disbelief
Theatrical Illusion-suspension of disbelief
Is there a problem with this ideal of suspension of
disbelief and emotional catharsis?
If you’re suspending disbelief you are accepting that
what is being presented is a mirror of reality, but in
reality it’s is still a perception of reality. The
audience is not thinking for themselves, but is
chained to the vision of the creators of the illusion.
If an audience is losing themselves in the action of
the play, how does Theatre as art, create change.
Epic Theatre
Episodic plot structure-little cause and effect between
Setting the stage- bare stage, sometimes showing the
backstage area or the light grid
Using technology having screens and text shown,
commentary, a screen showing what will happen in
the next scene, anything to avoid being lulled into
that suspension of disbelief
Historification- relating historical times to modern
times, often he would do this by showing films and
written text on screens above and to the sides of the
Acting Style-actor must be separate from the
character, the actor must not relate to the character at
all, but remain oneself, distant from the lines they are
saying—Weigel who played Mother Courage played
her as angry throughout most of the play, but it is not
Mother Courage who is angry, But Helene Weigel
who is angry at the character of Mother Courage
Song-repeatedly inserted song to disrupt action and
often had musicians on stage with the actors
Alienation Effect
The goal for the audience is to never forget that they
are seeing a play
The audience see the machinations or the production
of the play and are a part of that production
Audience does not have emotional catharsis but a
critical detachment
Reason and judgement of what is happening is
Brecht’t goal
Provoke the audience into not only thinking about the
play, but into reforming society by challenging
common ideology
Theatre as a vehicle of change- This is horrible, but it
doesn’t have to be this way. We can change this, you
can’t achieve this with realism, if what you are being
presented is supposed to be reality and truth then how
can it be changed. It is inevitable.
Is Mother Courage a hero?
Each time her children are killed she is busy
She produces nothing, but just buys it cheap from the
poor and sells it to a higher price-capitalism.
Swiss Cheese-She refuses to give the 200 when it
means she will lose her wagon.
Kattrin- she refuses to leave her, because of the
Page 361- “I know you you’ll get five guilders for
him.” Equating money to her children. Their worth is
measured in money.
She loses Eilif, because she is engaged in a
transaction with the sergeant. Brecht changed this
from the original where they just take Eilif. To make
Mother Courage more culpable in the loss of her own
In the opening scene she predicts the fate of each of
her children.
She wants to live off the war, but not let her son
Eilif is awarded for killing peasants and stealing their
meat. Awarded for his cunning and his shrewdness.
She scolds him for his bravery.
Page 369 she likes the idea that more countries are
involved so that she can make more money.
370 Elief sends a message. Her response is..”What
does he want I have no money to spare.”
Then Mother Courage comment about making war
for profit.
When Eilif is taken she is haggling. When Swiss
Cheese dies it is because she is haggling.
Pg 379 she haggles and her son is killed and then she
refuses to identify him three times. Swiss Cheese.
Page 389. From God Damn the War to don’t run
down the war. It’s good when it’s profitable.
Page 392 He hath need of a long spoon that eateth
with the devil.
Page 394 Eilif returns
Page 395 heaven be praised they’re shooting at each
Page 396 the war is hungry so enlist
399-400 it’s the wagon the center of their economy,
405 Mother Courage’s last line I’ve got to get back in
In the play, how is war put into a simple economic
equation. Profit subtracted from the cost. What is
the cost of war?
Why would Brecht use motherhood?
A sacred institution
Hegel’s Dialectic-Marxist analysis of history
A miniscule depiction of Capitalism in the family.
The relation of Mother to her Chidlren is like the
relationship of worker to owner in Capitalism- the
worker sells his or her labor to buy goods that were
manufactured by his or her labor. Mother Courage
doesn’t make anything, but just buys things and then
sells them at a higher price.
Why the 30-year War?
Written months after Hitler invaded Poland on the
eve of World War II
Page 371 Polish Hypocritical bring freedom through
force. Give them freedom by putting them on the
German Civil war almost
Started out about religion, then became about land
when other European countries became involved.
Nationalism/Patrriotism as a type of religion
What kills her children?
Too intelligent for his own good.
Too honest for his own good
Too good-natured
What about religion in the war? How is it
It is used as a way to whip the soldiers into a frenzy
and let them think that dieing for their king is a noble
thing. Religion is a social structure that is used to
push the war.
Why does Mother Courage lament the loss of her
They are cattle
They are to work for her
Does Brecht achieve his goal of estrangement in
the play? Did you feel for Mother Courage?
Is this play relevant today? Then why is it that
Brecht is so seldom produced? Escapist theatre.