Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children is one of the greatest plays of the 20th century. It raises essential issues which any person should try to respond. Being written during the most horrible war in the history of humanity it cannot but maintain its importance throughout times.
Of course, this play was played by many performers and interpreted by many play writers and theatre directors. One of the most remarkable interpretations of Brecht’s masterpiece is George C. Wolf’s play which forces people to think about the eternal values and the horrors of war which should be stopped on the Earth and in each person’s heart. The purpose of the present paper is to reveal the great power of the play which is aimed at revealing the filthy nature of war.
The Brecht’s play depicts several episodes of the main heroine’s life during the Thirty Years’ War. The play’s structure is linear since there is always a definite time reference in each scene. For instance the play opens up with certain year identification: Spring, 1624 (Brecht 23).
The main character of the play is Mother Courage, a canteen woman who tries to trade to survive during the war. She has three children, two sons Eilif and Swiss Cheese, and a daughter, Kattrin. Mother Courage is a strong woman who has to live in a very difficult time. She loses her children because of the war but still tries to move on.
Brecht reveals cruelty of death and senselessness of war depicting the poor woman losing her children. In this play he reflects the events of the real life which he could witness since so many women were wailing over their children. Brecht’s main idea, the horror and foolishness of war is especially vivid in the scene where Mother Courage is singing over her daughter’s body.
The sorrow of one mother reveals the tragedy of many countries. Of course, not only the plot makes it one of the greatest plays. Any detail of this work is thoughtful and meaningful, even silence is always an emphasis of a feeing or a certain atmosphere.
Every word is very precise and serves to create the necessary effect. For instance, Mother Courage always uses really simple language and describes really terrible events as if it was not a big deal. Thus, she speaks about her going through bombardment as if it is absolutely logical and simple to save her products (bread) under bombs: “They were going moldy, what else could I do?”(Brecht 25).
So, every word or pause drives a deep image of horrible war into viewers mind. The canteen wagon itself impacts greatly the viewers since it creates an image of unsettled life of ordinary people facing danger every minute of their lives. There is no much setting but it is as precise as the verbal means. Thus, the wagon speaks louder than even performers can.
As far as the stage interpretations of the play are concerned it is necessary to point out that the play is quite easy to put on stage. Brecht though everything over to every tiny detail: the plot, the themes, characters. It may seem that it is not so easy to perform such epic play, especially it is very hard for the cast. However, the emotions evoked by the play inspire everyone to perform in the best possible way and reveal the main idea of the play.
A good example of such great work is the Public Theatre (New York 2006) interpretation of Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children. George C. Wolf made a really great play managing to feel Brecht ideas and create the necessary atmosphere. The context of the modern life, where the war is still present, the contemporary society shares Brecht’s beliefs about the war. Meryl Streep who performed in the play (Mother Courage) was inspired by the play and agreed to participate in the project at once.
In the film, Theatre of War, she said that she thought of those women who were still losing their children and she had no hesitations as for the participation. Her performance proves that she was totally committed to performance since she succeeded to create unforgettable vital image of Mother Courage. Her song over Kattrin is really heartfelt and touching.
Perhaps, such dedication made this interpretation not only a very successful play but a genuine masterpiece. To my mind, George C. Wolf created the interpretation which could flatter the author. First of all, Wolf managed to reveal the atmosphere of Brecht’s work and the main idea of the play.
The performance in the Public Theatre was a precise reflection of the main purpose of Brecht’s work since every detail was thought over. Thus, the precision of both Brecht and Wolf reminds people about the eternal values of humanity and the horrors of the war in peoples’ hearts.
Brecht, B. Mother Courage and Her Children: A Chronicle of the Thirty Years’ War. New York: Grove Press, 1991.