1 year ago
Monday, May 2, 2011
As I checked out this week’s Magpie prompt, I wondered how many others would be reminded of the Bertolt Brecht play, “Mother Courage.”
Throughout human history there have been wars, and there have always been innocent victims. Victims who may never have believed in fighting in the first place, but were nonetheless caught up in it. Brecht’s play is a powerful reminder of the thousands of mothers with children who have, over the centuries, suffered due to violent human conflict.
Quite a number of highly qualified scholars claim that “Mother Courage” was the best play of the last century. But as I see it, there’s a problem…
Bertolt Brecht was deeply schooled in Marxism and Soviet aesthetic theory. He received the “Stalin Peace Prize” in 1954. His view of life was simple: the problem was capitalism. Capitalism wasn’t just evil; it was the evil. Everything bad, including war, stemmed from that and from that alone. That is the main theme of Brecht’s play.
Today, a half-century or so later, this seems woefully simplistic. We now know that wars can be caused by a half-dozen other reasons in addition to the profit motive: ideologies, religions, expansionism, etc. So I think this week’s Magpie prompt is summed up beautifully by the title “Mother Courage,” but not many of us today would be able to go along with Brecht in his belief that peace would ensue if the world just adopted Stalin’s Soviet system.
Today it’s possible to present this play so that the audience will leave the theater with the impression that an indefatigable woman has endured the worst and has still come through -- her aim of "living through the war" has been achieved.