Mother Courage and Her Children

by Bertolt Brecht

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What unique theatrical techniques does Brecht use in Mother Courage and her Children?

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What Brecht uniquely offered to drama was his incorporation of what he called alienation effects into his work. Brecht used these to try and distance the audience from certain aspects of the action of the play so that the audience's emotional involvement with the characters portrayed in the drama is limited. Brecht believed that this would enable the audience to focus more on the meaning of the action and the critique of society that the play offered.  

Examples of this in the play include the summary of events that is given at the beginning of each scene so that the audience can concentrate on the meaning of the action rather than be surprised by what occurs. In addition, consider how distancing is achieved through the way in which the play does not present any scene that could induce an emotional response with the audience. The execution of the Swiss Cheese is a perfect example of this, as the execution is not portrayed onstage, and none of the emotional impact is explored afterwards. This helps the audience focus more on Brecht's theme of the terrors of war. Lastly, consider the various songs that highlight the various themes of the play whilst also challenging the reality of the action through the interruptions that they offer. Consider the following example from Scene Nine when Mother Courage is talking about Solomon:

How great and wise was Solomon!

The world however didn't wait

But soon observed what followed on.

It's wisdom that had brought him to this state--

How fortunate the man with none!

This song satirically presents the dangers of cultivating such "good" qualities as wisdom, as the story of King Solomon suggests. Brecht uses a variety of strategies therefore in order to distance the audience from the action so that they can focus more on the message he presents.

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