Mother Courage and Her Children

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"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 remains largely unclear with which character within the play this identity lies: Mother Courage herself, or her daughter, Kattrin.

Perhaps the most obvious potential tragic figure is the lead character within the play: Mother Courage. She demonstrates an ability to survive, through which the audience recognizes her strength of character and instinct of self-preservation. This links closely with her sense of capitalism, which she prioritizes over alternative, more virtuous qualities presented within the play, such as Swiss Cheese's honesty and Kattrin's selflessness. Mother Courage's rigid capitalist stance can be interpreted as her "tragic flaw", or "hamartia", the term Aristotle uses to describe the mistake leading to the protagonist's downfall. It is a flaw that Mother Courage consistently exhibits and a mistake which occurs thrice in the deaths of her children, as she is absent conducting business on all three occasions. However, despite her apparent detachment towards her children, it is evident that Mother Courage harbours genuine concern for the well-being of her children: in a discussion with Cook over future prospects, she states, "all I'm after is (to) get meself and children through all this with my cart".

In the...
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