Monday, May 2, 2011

Magpie 64

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.


Pearl said...

I always learn here.

I've just written this down. I need to read this play now.


Reflections said...

Too often 'a mother's courage' is what will carry one through a devastating situation, yet no, too often, war is not based on the evil of capitalism... nor are the devastating fires that wash the area of its profit.

Margaret said...

Thank you. I will have to get my hands upon the script.

Tess Kincaid said...

"Mother Courage" would be a beautiful name for Carter's painting.

Helen said...

Your Magpies are usually thought provoking ~ this one is no exception!

Berowne said...

Tess K.: "Mother Courage" would be a beautiful name for Carter's painting.
Yes, the title sort of jumped out at me as soon as I ssw the prompt.

Ann Grenier said...

Food for thought. Would make a great topic for discussion. Thanks.

lucychili said...

I think war definitely has its roots in capital.
It is an economic phenomenon, a business model, even if the flag it waves tells another story.

Everyday Goddess said...

That would be a fascinating play for today's audience.

Stalin Peace Prize? is that an oxymoron?

Berowne said...

E. Goddess: "Stalin Peace Prize? is that an oxymoron?"
Yes, the phrase has a built-in risibility factor. :-)

Shaista said...

Yes it is a powerful play - more so on stage than in the reading, don't you find?

Have you read Arthur Miller's 'Broken Glass'?
That is an unforgettable work.

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