Mother Courage and Her Children

Mother Courage's Unnatural Selfishness College

While there is still confusion over the exact causes of the Thirty Years' War, everyone can acknowledge how horrific and devastating it was. Enormous amounts of civilians in besieged cities such as Magdeburg lost their lives, and those who survived lost everything else. The soldiers who sacked the city, described in the diary of the city's mayor Otto von Guericke, completely disregarded the suffering of ordinary civilians in an attempt to gain as much wealth and pleasure as they could from pillaging and rape. As Brecht tries to show through his play Mother Courage and Her Children, soldiers are not the only people whose actions based on economic attitudes and self interest can harm others. Brecht's representation of the siege in scene five of his play, rather than giving a large scale picture of the city's destruction, gives a more close up example and shows how the self interested actions of ordinary civilians can also be destructive. Brecht is known for “epic theater,” a didactic form of drama in which the audience is supposed to be aware that it is watching a play. He uses “denaturalization,” an element of epic theater that assists its didactic purposes, to call attention to things that he sees as unnatural and to distance...

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