Study Guide

Mother Courage and Her Children Allusions

By Bertolt Brecht


Literary and Philosophical References

The Bible

  • Check out these Biblical references in Mother Courage:
  • II, 127-128. This passage refers to one of Jesus' miracles, known as feeding the multitude. Jesus transforms five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food to feed 5,000 men, plus women and children. The miracle is present in all the New Testament gospels Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:5-15.
  • II, 128-129. This line refers to the Christian idea that you should care about the welfare of others as much as you care about your own. The phrase "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" can be found in the Bible, Galatians 5:14.
  • II, 134-135. The general quotes a part from the Bible in which the Lord tells his followers he likes it best when they're nice to the weakest among them. The real deal can be found in Matthew 25:40.
  • III, 319-320. The chaplain again quotes from the Bible. This part has to do with needing to preach God's word all the time because you love the guy so much. Check out Luke 6:45 and Mark 12:34.
  • III, 509-548. The chaplain's song, The Song of the Hours, tells the story of the Passion, the events leading up to and including Jesus' crucifixion.
  • III, 641. Mother Courage calls the chaplain "Jesus on Mount of Olives." Mount Olive is the name of the mountain where Jesus gives his speech about the apocalypse. Interesting that she says this about the chaplain, right? He's the one who tells her the war will go on forever.

Historical References

  • King Gustavus Adolphus. This guy's death is what leads people to proclaim peace in Scene VIII of Mother Courage. He is king of the Swedish Empire during the Thirty Years' War. When Mother Courage, the cook, and the chaplain talk about a "king" in Scene III (lines 179-218), this is the guy they mean.
  • General Tilly. Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, is a famous general of the Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Years' War. His funeral occurs in Scene VI.

Other References

  • Mother Courage and the cook sing together in Scene IX. Their song makes reference to religious, philosophical, and historical figures. Here's the list:
  • Solomon. This guy's straight from the Old Testament. King Solomon is credited with building the first Temple of Jerusalem. He's also famous for his wisdom.
  • Caesar. They're singing about Julius Caesar here, a Roman general who boldly took charge of his government and tried to make himself the dictator of Rome. He was assassinated by a group of Roman senators, among them his friend Brutus.
  • Socrates. This famous Ancient Greek philosopher was executed for corrupting the youth of Athens. He willingly carried out his own execution by drinking a poisonous beverage.
  • St. Martin. Here, Mother Courage and the cook are talking about Martin of Tours, a French saint. When Martin was a soldier in the Roman army, he once cut his cloak to give part of it to a freezing beggar. That night, he had a vision of Jesus wearing his cloak. St. Martin did not actually freeze to death after sharing his cloak, despite what they sing in Mother Courage.