Cathleen ni Houlihan



  • A one-act play by W. B. Yeats (with some help fromLady Gregory), first produced in 1902 in Dublin by the IrishNational Dramatic Society. Two years later it was one of three playsthat opened the Abbey Theatre, becoming a staple in its repertory.Based in part on an old Irish ballad, it aroused fervent nationalisticfeeling with its story of an old woman (a traditional symbol of Ireland)who urges Michael, a young peasant, to assist her in her struggleto reclaim the "four green fields" that have been stolenfrom her by a stranger. At the end of the play Michael decides toabandon his fiancĂ©e and follow Cathleen to the death. In theplay's final lines Michael's father asks another character if he hasseen an old woman on the road and receives the reply:
    I did not, but I saw a young girl, and she had the walk ofa queen.
    Yeats later worried about the inflammatory effect the playmay have had. In one of his last poems he asked himself:
    Did that play of mine send out
    Certain men the English shot?
    W. B. Yeats: 'Man and Echo'