It is the seventeenth year of "the great war of faith," a "grey morning in early winter." Mother Courage and the Cook, dressed in shabby sheepskins, draw the cart. They stop outside a small house, belonging presumably to a parson. They intend to beg for food; they are starving and cold.
The Cook reveals to Courage that he has received a letter from his aunt in Utrecht, telling him that his mother has died and that he has inherited the family inn. He invites Mother Courage to come with him and run the inn. After so many years of war, they are both tired, and as Courage sees, people are desperately poor, having nothing to buy her wares with. "Nothing's growing, except brambles."
She immediately tells Kattrin of the Cook's offer--but he pulls her aside and makes it clear that there is no room at the inn for Kattrin to live as well. If Courage is to accept his offer, Kattrin must remain behind. She will, the Cook thinks, never find a husband with that scar, so she might as well continue to pull the cart. Courage considers.
Mother Courage and the Cook then sing the "Song of Solomon" outside the parson's house as they beg for food and charity. The song details the way that great virtues do little to save great men from great disaster--examining, in order, Solomon, Julius Caesar, Socrates, and Saint Martin. It closes with a verse that deals with the "respectable folk" who are singing the song. At the close of the song, a voice calls Courage and the Cook into the parsonage for hot soup, and they go in. Courage then refuses to leave her daughter. The Cook accepts her decision with cool logic.
Kattrin, who has overheard much of the conversation about the Inn in Utrecht, emerges with a bundle, intending to run away. She lays out a pair of the cook's trousers and lays them on top of an old skirt of her mother's, but she is caught in the act by her mother. Guiltily, Mother Courage comforts Kattrin, and throwing the Cook's stuff out of the cart, the two of them get back on the road together. When the Cook arrives out of the parsonage with his soup, he looks bleakly at his possessions.
By this late stage in the play, the glorious prosperity celebrated in Scene Seven has been lost. Times are hard, the weather is cold, and there is little business for Courage. The little people, in this scene, really cannot make any cut from the war. Nothing is growing, and there is nothing to buy or sell. The brutal message of the play about the war's ravages is now explicit.
Brecht is also moving towards the resolution of the play's plot. When Courage and the Cook have their brutal conversation about Kattrin's chances of marriage, having Kattrin overhear them makes her deeply and immediately sympathetic. Rejected and dejected, Kattrin "decides to spare her mother the need to make a decision" (Couragemodell) and leaves a message, the trousers and skirts, to accuse her mother of being a whore to the war. Courage's lies and comforting do little to lift the uncomfortable resonance of Kattrin's pictorial accusation--both Kattrin and the audience know that Courage was seriously considering the Cook's offer and that her protestations to the contrary are simply lies.
It is important, Brecht wrote, not to represent the Cook as "brutal" in this scene. The fact is that the tavern he has inherited is too small and, of course, the customers cannot be expected to put up with the sight of the disfigured Kattrin. The logic applied is such as might be expected in a business proposition. Here in abundance are the lack of humanity and the lack of compassion that characterize the dealings of the war.
This is the Cook's final scene. Like the Chaplain's in Scene 8, it is another minor exit for a major character. Ernst Busch, the Cook after 1951 in Brecht's production, indicated the sexual nature of this parting of ways by letting his pipe first droop and then fall from his mouth. And, though he has been absent from much of the play, the Cook is notably the play's most humorous character. His blank, silent exit, with his few belongings lying in front of him on an open stage, is a notable sign that there are to be no more laughs. Brecht's play is now moving towards its brutal, unforgiving, pessimistic conclusion.