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Brecht puts across before the audience a complex character; giving her the name 'Mother Courage' he etches out the complexities of the character-Indomitable yet cowardly, intelligent yet blind, rational yet unsuccessful he transforms her into a tragic figure torn apart between her roles of being a nurturing mother to reasonably successful tradesman. Mother Courage from the beginning of the play is portrayed as a woman of great resilience. Anna Fierling an ordinary woman got the nickname 'Mother Courage' because she drove through an onslaught of Riga with fifty loaves of bread in her cart. She wanted to sell them off or else they would have grown mouldy and she would have incurred losses. (Scene 1, Page 25 Mother Courage And Her Children)1. When the recruiting Officer tries to forcibly recruit Eilif in the army she takes out her knife and threatens them which depict her inexplicit courage. Throughout the play her main objective was to ensure she made money by selling goods and keeping her children under her protection. Though she was not a great success in shielding her children from the wraths of the war she managed to thrive on her business. Her business dealings in Scene 11 with the belt, selling off the capon to the cook at the regiment in Scene 21, the deals with the bullets and shirts in Scene 51 are testimony to this fact. Being a woman she was able to accomplish such a task in the fallen world of war which is a remarkable feat.
On the other hand Sophocles 'Antigone' is a static character. She is firm and rebellious in nature and shows determination for the fulfilment of her rights. In her eyes the law of Gods was holy and of utmost importance hence she believed she had to adhere to them and pay her last respects to her brother Polyneices by burying him. This was against the Order of Creon the ruler of Thebes. In the first episode where a conversation between the sisters Antigone and Ismene takes place Antigone tries coaxing her sister to join her in the burial of their brother her trait of courage is depicted. When Ismene cautions her to perform the deed secretly she blatantly refuses and instructs her to spread word to the whole kingdom about it. (Antigone lines 70-75)2. Antigone's courage stems out from the belief she had that people born in the noble line should exhibit superior ethical virtues. The emotional tumult in her life; her father Oedipus killed himself when he realized the fact that he was the reason of the death and he had committed another sin by marrying his own mother, Her mother committed suicide; Both her brothers had to fight each other in the battlefield which wrecked their lives. This horrendous state of affairs made her resilient and she was determined to give her brother a proper burial. (Antigone lines 45-65)2. In the Greek period where the play is set male dominance was largely prevalent in the society, breaking the norms of the society and performing an act in lieu against injustice made Antigone a social symbol.
By showing the attribute of courage the two protagonists had to face the wrath of their nemeses. Mother Courage's nemesis is the war itself from whom she was frantically trying her best to protect her children from the war. In Scene 11 when the recruiting officer and Sergeant she tells them that he is of no use to the army as he's cowardly and would chicken out in a tussle. In Scene 31 she is enraged when she see's Kattrin wearing Yvette's red boots because she is worried about her safety as the Catholics attacked without a fore warning but in Scene 61 she is seen giving those boots to Kattrin as that time 1932 it was supposedly peace time. When the Chaplain approaches her in Scene 31 and informs her that Eilif is need of money or else his life would be in danger, Mother Courage relented at first but her motherly instinct made her relinquish some money. In contrast, Antigone nemesis was her own Uncle King Creon, who wanted to take away her life for going against his wish. Unlike Mother Courage Antigone had nothing to agonize about other than her moral values hence she openly asserted to him that he talk away his life because there she felt that she would attain glory lying on the tomb beside her brother. Creon was enraged because his 'hubris'; Greek term for pride was hurt. Being the authoritarian of the state he implied that using his power he would end his disobedient niece's life. (Antigone lines 435-445)2.
The characteristic trait of 'Courage' set these two protagonists apart in the sense that they were not stereotyped but they had to face the consequences of their actions. Brecht juxtaposes different facets of Mother Courage's inner psychology to show the reader even though she had the wisdom how things turn topsy turvy in her life; her courageous exterior forms as a basis for her ironically cowardly inner self. In Scene the 'Fraternization song' by Yvette, Mother Courage warns her daughter about falling in love with a soldier which has a slender reference to her own past. She fell in love with a soldier and was now struggling in the time of crisis as the man she loved was not by her side and she had three mouths to feed. Taking cue from Mother Courage started on the voyage with her children for their survival even though she knew that this was risky and dangerous. The consequences begin to show their nature slowly. In Scene 11 her eldest child Eilif is taken away by the Recruiting Officer and Sergeant to get him enrolled in the army. In Scene 31 her second son Swiss cheese is killed because he was absconding from the camp and he had the regimental cash box. Finally in Scene 11even her dumb daughter Kattrin is shot dead for trying to create a hullaballoo with her drumming when the Catholic soldiers attacked a protestant town of Halle. Slowly by slowly each child of Mother Courage is taken away from her and in the end she is stranded all alone.
Sophocles' Antigone being a well structured play with static characters and a well defined climax the character of Antigone clutches on to her courageous and rebellious nature to achieve her goal. The infuriated and intolerant Creon leads her to the riverbank of Archaeon where he intended to put an end to her existence. Antigone reflects upon her cursed family history but does not lament over it. In the fourth episode she speaks out to the chorus about her decision to break the rules of the city, she justifies her stand by reasoning out that if it had been her child or her husband she wouldn't have dared to commit a crime against the city law but this being her brother and as both her parents were dead she had to take courage and break the law and give her brother due honour. The courage she showed leads her to her death but her heroic nature is revealed.
In conclusion we can paraphrase 'courage' as fearless endurance. Both Brecht and Sophocles have used this as a central theme while evolving their characters. Courage was one crucial factor that set Mother Courage apart during the Thirty years war and Antigone from the other women who were suppressed due to the male dominance in that Greek era. Both the characters build up and reach a peak of their personality due to this attribute but slowly dramatic changes start occurring in their lives and both of them had to meet terrible fates.