Mother Courage and Her Children Summary

Key Facts

  • Full Title: Mother Courage and Her Children
  • Written: 1939
  • Published: 1941
  • Genre: Epic theater, social drama
  • Setting: Throughout Europe (Germany, Poland, Bavaria, and Saxony)


  • Mother Courage: The protagonist of the drama who lost all of her children during the war.
  • Eilif: The first child of Mother Courage. He joins the army and ravages the peasants. He is executed because of his crime. 
  • Swiss Cheese: The second child of Mother Courage. Swiss also joins the army and is killed at the hands of Catholics. 
  • Kattrin: Kattrin is the silent daughter of Mother Courage who is killed during the war.

Themes: War as Businesses; Virtue in Wartime; Maternity; Capitulation. 


The play Mother Courage and Her Children was written by the German poet and playwright Bertolt Bretch (1898-1956). This is one of his very beautiful and famous plays which was published in 1941. The play depicts the horrors of the thirty-year war between Protestants and Catholics in Central Europe. Besides, the life of the people during the war has also been highlighted. The total duration of the drama plot was 12 years. And to present this entire period beautifully, the author has divided the play into 12 scenes.

Mother Courage and her three children

The play begins in 1624 in Dalarna, a town in Sweden. Mother Courage runs a shop in a cart. At the beginning of the play, Mother Courage is seen driving the cart with her two sons, Eilif and Swiss Cheese, and silent daughter Kattrin. Meanwhile, they overhear an officer recruiting soldiers for the war. The officer continues to express his displeasure to a habildar. He goes on to talk about how difficult and annoying it is to recruit soldiers into battle, then find them. The officer found Mother Courage and her children. He encourages Mother Courage’s eldest son, Eilif, to go to war. The officer tries to convince Eilif that if he goes to war he will get respect, power, and money. Mother Courage disagrees. But Eilif does not listen to his mother and goes to war.

Then the plot is shown in 1626. Courage sets up her shop in front of a Swedish commander’s tent. Meanwhile, she hears the Swedish commander praise a soldier, and that soldier is Eilif. Eilif recently destroyed a village. He kills the farmers of the village and loots their livestock. Courage gets angry after hearing this. She tells the commander that good men would never commit such devastation.

Murder of Cheese

Three years later, Mother Courage’s younger son, Swiss Cheese, joins the Army as a Pay Master. His job is to send money to war regiments. Cheese is quite honest and brave, but not very intelligent. One day the Catholic soldiers arrested Cheese for extorting money. After hearing this news, Courage decides to raise money by selling her cart. But Courage fails to collect this money. Meanwhile, the Catholics, unable to get money, kill Cheese. Courage is left heartbroken in this incident. She is petrified with grief. The Catholics then win the war. The priest who is a Protestant changed his clothes into Catholic clothes and started singing about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Barbarism of War

The aftermath is seen two years later. Mother Courage takes her dumb daughter along with her to a regiment selling various commodities like bandages, medicine, etc. At that time, a Protestant priest comes and tells Courage that many people are still wounded on the battlefield. When the priest asks Courage to sell bandages and medicine, she refuses. She makes it clear that she can not help. Dumb Kattrin also pleads with her mother, but she doesn’t listen. Seeing an injured child nearby, Kattrin runs to help him. Meanwhile, the priest pushes Courage away and goes to the battlefield after grabbing some bandages and medicine from her store.

Then a year later events are highlighted. That priest and Mother Courage are talking. The priest says that this war will not end so soon. Soldiers are more focused on fighting to prove themselves as heroes. The war will not stop until this game of heroism is over. So the priest offers Courage to marry him. But Courage does not agree. She says that she is very worried about her elder son. Moreover, she is also thinking about her daughter’s marriage.

The prolonged war then ends with the death of the King of Sweden. At the end of the war, Mother Courage is happy but worried too. She is worried because she has just bought new products to sell on the battlefield. Her products are no longer sold. But she is happy because now the children are free from the horrors of war. The priest informs Courage that soon her son Eilif will come to visit her. After hearing this, Courage goes to the city to sell her goods. But Eilif is arrested by the government as a traitor. Because during the war the goods of the farmers were looted. So he is sentenced to death. Two soldiers bring Eilif to pay a last visit to his mother. He will be executed shortly after. But Courage does not know this because she is not at home. Only priests and the cook of Mother Courage know it. They also swear that they will never tell Courage about this fact. Courage will suffer a lot if he knows this.

After a few days, the war breaks out again. Courage again takes her shop to the battlefield and does quite well. One day she parks his cart in front of a farmer’s house in Germany. Leaving her daughter near the cart, she goes to town to buy some things. Meanwhile, two Catholic spies come and try to find the Protestant spies. After realizing this, the farmer tries to signal the danger to the nearby Protestant spies by making various noises, but he fails. Seeing this, Kattrin takes out a drum from their cart and beats it to alert the Protestant soldiers. The two Catholic spies return again and forbid Kattrin to play the drums. When Kattrin doesn’t listen, they shoot her dead. Courage returns and is shocked to see her daughter’s dead body. She frantically searches the streets for his eldest son. And thus the play ends.

Read Also: Crime and Punishment Summary

Mr. Abdullah
Mr. Abdullah

Mr. Abdullah is a passionate love of Literature. Researcher and Lecturer of English Literature and Language.

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