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In what ways and to what extent is "Mother Courage" a tragedy?

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In what ways and to what extent is "Mother Courage" a tragedy? Ross Gillott 11 Watsford In order to determine to what extent Brecht's "Mother Courage and her Children" is a tragedy, it is useful to look at the works of two of the great writers of tragedies of all time, Aristotle and Shakespeare in order to establish a definition of a dramatic tragedy. Aristotle made a clear definition of the dramatic style of tragedy. According to Aristotle, tragedy is "an imitation of a noble and complete action, having the proper magnitude, it employs language which has been artistically enhanced". The main character of Aristotle's works was typically an admirable, but not perfect person confronted by a difficult moral choice. Aristotelian tragedy involved the use of "catharsis", which was Aristotle's term for arousing the emotions of pity and fear in order to reduce the audience's passions to a healthy, balanced proportion. ...read more.


The surviving tragedies written by Aristotle all involve an element of fate, and that no matter how the main character had acted, it would not ultimately have changed their situation at the end of the story. "Mother Courage and her Children" agrees with the Aristotelian definition of tragedy in this sense as in the text Mother Courage does not die, and neither does a particularly unfortunate event happen to her at the end. There is also an element of fate detectable in Brecht's text, as although Mother Courage did not submit her children to the war, all three eventually were taken casualty by it. This adds a feeling of inevitability to the storyline, that no matter what decision she had made, the outcome would not have been any different. Shakespeare's tragedies are noted for their suspenseful plots, insights into human nature and poetic dialogue. ...read more.


This theme of bad decisions leading to bad consequences that runs throughout "Mother Courage and her Children" agrees with the Shakespearean definition of tragedy. "Mother Courage and her Children" gives an insight into human nature. Greed, honesty, perseverance and the desire for power are discussed several times throughout the book. According to the definitions of dramatic tragedy by Shakespeare and Aristotle, who are among the greatest writers of tragedy of all time, "Mother Courage and her Children" would be considered largely not to be a tragedy. It directly contradicts Aristotle's view that tragedy should involve significant figures and noble actions and his view that tragedies should be written using artistically enhanced language. Neither does Shakespearean tragedy have much in common with "Mother Courage and her Children". However, the few similarities between Aristotelian, Shakespearean tragedy and Brecht's play are too large to say that "Mother Courage and her Children" is not a tragedy. ...read more.

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