Mother Courage and Her Children

Mother Courage and Her Children Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How good a mother is Mother Courage? How courageous is she?

    This question asks you to consider what counts as a "good mother" and what counts as "courage"--both as presented in the play and as what seems true to you. In thinking about Courage in these terms, consider her attitude towards her children when there is a conflict of interest with her business.

  2. 2

    "All good Catholics here" (Chaplain, Scene 3). What is the role of religion within the religious war in which the play is set?

    The quotation is a clue that the Chaplain is the key character to analyze in answering this question. One good answer would attempt a character study of him before relating it outward to the bigger pictures of the war and the play.

  3. 3

    Explore Brecht's presentation of Kattrin, commenting particularly on the significance of her being dumb (mute).

    Writing about Kattrin can be difficult in that she speaks no lines. Consider, though, moments where Brecht gives her specific gestures in the stage directions, and analyze her growing role in the play, particularly her final scene. Consider also what other characters say about her and whether we should believe what they say, and how others react to her character.

  4. 4

    Is Mother Courage and Her Children a tragedy?

    Remember to define tragedy before relating that definition to the play. See the section on Major Themes for help.

  5. 5

    Using your knowledge of Brecht's "epic theater," comment on the songs and their role within the play.

    There are twelve songs in the play, so choose the ones that are most relevant to your thesis. See the glossary for key terms, and consider the songs' effects on the audience with respect to both thought and emotion.

  6. 6

    Brecht claimed that his first intention was to force his audience to critically analyze his characters and their decisions--the audience's emotional involvement was not nearly as important. Does this play achieve that goal?

    Consider your own emotional response to the play, particularly in your first experience of it. For most readers the response will be based around the final two scenes. Decide whether or not it is possible to critically analyze them while watching the scenes or thinking about them using one's memory. Good answers might consider the possibility that different productions of the play can have different levels of success.

  7. 7

    Write a character study of the Cook, commenting on the way he ties into the theme of "feeding the war."

    See the other sections of this ClassicNote for pointers about the Cook and this theme. Note who the Cook spends his time with, what he says, and what characters expect him to be and do.

  8. 8

    Do you agree with critics who argue that Brecht's scene headings and placards give too much away, making each scene predictable or boring?

    Here, it will help to relate your knowledge of Brecht's theater choices and practices to your own view of how the play can work as a whole. What happens in some of the scenes that cannot be captured in the headings and notes? Also see the section on Brecht and Epic Theater.

  9. 9

    Brecht wrote, "Yvette Pottier is the only character in the play who strikes it rich; she has sold herself for a good price." Examine Yvette's character in light of this assertion.

    Yvette is the most interesting character to analyze in examining the theme of class, so a good answer might include some discussion of class. Consider too how Yvette, like Courage, sacrifices her emotional needs for financial ones. And what do you make of the idea of selling oneself? Is that ever morally acceptable?

  10. 10

    Brecht wrote, "I am curious to know how many of those who see Mother Courage and Her Children today understand its warning" (Brecht "Theaterarbeit," 1952). What do you understand to be the play's warning?

    See the additional content on "Brecht's Intention" for an analysis of what Brecht thought the answer to this question was. Does this warning make sense in light of your own reading of the play? Consider how far the play is still relevant in your time and place.

  11. 11

    Brecht called his play a "Chronicle of the Thirty Years' War." How far does the title "Chronicle" fit the play and the playwright's intentions?

    (Look up "Chronicle" in a dictionary if necessary.) This question relates to the play as a whole and how it might affect an audience. Consider what a chronicle or another kind of history is supposed to achieve. Is that what Brecht achieves?

  12. 12

    Relate Brecht's play to the "dark times" in which it was written. How far do you find Brecht's setting of the Thirty Years' War relevant to the times in which he lived?

    This question asks for knowledge of the two contexts of Brecht's play: the time when it was written, and the time when it was set. These contexts then have to be related to each other. There is a small amount of information about both on this site, but the key is to consider which lessons Brecht thought he learned from the Thirty Years' War as portrayed in the play, and then to learn enough history to assess whether those lessons actually can be drawn reasonably from both the Thirty Years' War and from Brecht's own time.