Essay about Mother Courage and Her Children

1589 WordsJul 22, 20057 Pages
"Mother Courage and her Children", by Bertolt Brecht, is a play which can be seen from varying perspectives. Some consider it to be a comment on the socio-economic aspects of war, others as a criticism of bourgeois capitalism intended to encourage change in modern society. The somewhat tragic events of the play enable critics to consider it a "tragedy", but one which, to some extent, diverges from the Aristotelian definition. Aristotle believed that tragedy must revolve around a central character: the "tragic hero", on whom the plot focuses and who exhibits certain characteristics, which leads to his, though in this particular case, her, downfall. The role of such a figure is pivotal to the presentation of a play as a tragedy; yet it…show more content…
Alternatively, this contrast could be interpreted as an indication that Mother Courage is morally "neither all good nor all bad", a quality which Aristotle states as necessary in a tragic hero. Her intention of and attempt at providing for and protecting her family by her existence as a "hyena of the battlefield" is essentially good, yet it is in fact this very existence which brings about the deaths of her children and her own downfall. According to Aristotle, the audience must witness the tragic hero undeservedly suffer great misfortune. Although the audience disapproves of Mother Courage and her attitudes, we are not presented with a feasible alternative. She is forced into living as a parasite of war by her socio-economic status: she is simply trying to provide for her family and the only crime she commits is the utilization of her gift of tradesmanship. Mother Courage's misfortunes are presented as the deaths of her children, which are caused by each individual's sole virtue, so are, in effect, undeserved by Mother Courage. An element of tragedy is removed from the play as Mother Courage does not appear to experience suffering as a result of these losses. However, this does not prevent the evocation of pity from the audience, a key factor of tragedy, as we still perceive her as a consequential victim of the social and economic
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