February 1938: Čapek’s The Mother premieres in Prague

'The Mother', 1938

Karel Čapek’s play The Mother, about a woman who does her all to prevent her son dying in war, got its premiere in Prague 85 years ago, on 12 February 1938.

'The Mother',  1938 | Photo: National Theatre archive

The famous Czech writer’s final play, like the earlier The White Disease, came in response to the rise of Nazism and the threat to democracy in Europe.

The drama was part inspired by Čapek’s wife, the actress Olga Scheinpflugová, and part by a 1937 photograph of a woman kneeling by her son’s corpse during the Spanish Civil War.

The anti-war play contrasts the large-scale deeds of the male world with the fate of a woman who gradually loses her husband and her five sons. One dies during scientific work, the other in a plane and her twins become victims of the civil war.

The devastated country is then invaded by a foreign state and the youngest son also wants to join the fight. However, his mother is ready to do whatever it takes to prevent him from doing so.

The Mother’s premiere at the National Theatre in Prague came not long before the author’s own death. It was part of the institution’s repertoire until September 1938, when the Czechs found themselves on the verge of a war of their own.

'The Mother',  1938 | Photo: National Theatre archive