Mother Courage and Her Children

Mother Courage and Her Children Glossary


Epic Theatre insisted that its spectators were to engage critically with the action more than engaging with it emotionally. "Alienation" was the term used for this critical "detachment." The point was not merely to be alienated from one's emotions. In German, Verfremdung ("alienation") means "to make strange," and from this root one can see how making events seem strange or "alien" might provoke thinking, the critical detachment that Brecht so advocated.


An economic system whereby profit is a primary motive for trade; that is, investors employ capital (money) in order to make more money. The term is also used to refer to a political ideology that supports economic capitalism, whereby state control of industry is considered anti-individual and free exchange is promoted even at the expense of common social interests.


Giving in or succumbing. It often is a military term describing when soldiers surrender. Mother Courage's use of the term in Scene 4 points out how everyone in the play eventually gives in to the larger capitalist system of the war.


A male chicken whose reproductive organs were removed at an early age, in order that it could be fattened for eating.


A member of the clergy who does not serve an organized congregation or church, often found in universities, in hospitals, and (as here) in armies.

Christ's Passion

The theological term for the suffering of Jesus during the hours prior to and during his crucifixion.

Couragemodell (the "model")

Brecht invented a new method of direction, though it never particularly caught on. He proposed that playwrights would record all of their decisions as they prepared for the original performances of their work, from actors' intonations to the lighting and stage blocking. Thus, future directors could study this "model" production in order to understand the author's and the play's aims and intended interpretations--before forming their own versions for performance. Theatrically, Brecht's model has served to set his play in stone rather than release it as a Platonic ideal with secular instantiations from one director to the next. Thus, from a literary point of view, it is fascinating to get a fine-grained picture of the play as Brecht intended it and had it performed.

Dramatic Theater

The opposite of what Brecht called epic theater, that is, a derogatory term used by Brecht as well as a theater tradition. Brecht thought that the "dramatic theater" had its primary goal to move or excite its audience, which to him was not a "noble" enough aim for the theater.

Epic Theater

A theater movement created by Brecht and having the primary goal of educating the audience, that is, leading them to analyze critically what they watch rather than simply being emotionally involved in it.

General Tilly (1559-1632)

A field marshal who commanded the armies of the Imperial and Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Years' War.


A primitive firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries.


The German verb to "wage war" (Krieg kriegen), with the secondary meaning to "get" or "get hold of." This is a telling double meaning for the interpretation of this play. The verb recurs throughout the play.


Stealing goods. In this play, it involves robbing from the townspeople after a town has been besieged.


Ammunition or bullets, usually (though not exclusively) for a musket.

Thirty Years' War (1618-1648)

A major European conflict, fought mostly in what is now Germany, which began as a civil war with religious roots and quickly became (as Brecht emphasizes) an international war of religion between Catholic and Protestant powers. It ended with a new world order determined by the major powers on hand in Europe at the Peace of Westphalia.