Article Title

All in the Family: Mother Courage and the Ideology in the Gestus


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Marvin Carlson, in Theories of the Theatre, begins a discussion of Brecht with the following pronouncement: ''No other twentieth-century writer has influenced the theatre both as dramatist and theorist as profoundly as Bertolt Brecht."1 Given this hardly disputable fact, it is intriguing to note how much critical effort.has been invested in attempts to rescue the dramatist from the theorist--or, to put it another way, to save Brecht from himself. Eric Bentley, writing about Brecht in 1957, helped to initiate what can be seen as a pattern in Brechtian criticism that pervades discussion of his work even. to the present day. "The disproof of Brecht's theory," Bentley declares, "is Brecht's practice. His art makes up for his criticism."2 Martin Esslin, in his critical. biography, concurs. Throughout Brecht: The Man and His Work, Esslin suggests that Brecht's theory is violated by the plays that he wrote spite Brecht's best intentions, but, according to Esslin, to the greater good of the drama itself. Brecht, he remarks, "always seemed to succeed in doing things he had never intended. . . . The plays he had written as ice-cold intellectual exercises contain far more than he himself consciously put into them." Indeed, the Brecht that emerges from Esslin's portrait seems rather like an idiot savant, blithely creating works of genius· without the vaguest understanding of what he is doing-in fact, with the conscious wish to do something quite other than what he is doing. Speaking of Brecht's "blindness towards the real meaning and content of some of his best work," Esslin concludes that, "Brecht was constantly faced with the problem of his characters running away from him and assuming an independent existence of which he strongly disapproved."3

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