Cathleen ni Houlihan

Cathleen ni Houlihan Imagery

The dowry

Peter returns home with the dowry for Michael's marriage to Delia, a sack full of money. The dowry remains on the table at the center of the stage, a reminder of the prosperity that is waiting for Michael if he decides to go through with the wedding.

The Old Woman

The Old Woman is a withered and desperate figure, clearly in need and perhaps a little delirious from her wandering. Yeats and Lady Gregory do not describe her with very much detail, but from the way that the characters respond to her, we can assume that she is very destitute and worse for wear.

The family home

The entirety of the one-act play takes place inside a small and humble Irish cottage. The play opens on the whole family gathered in the main room of the cottage anticipating the wedding of the eldest son, Michael. It is an image of simple Irish country life in 1798.


At the end of the play, Michael's fiancée, Delia, comes to the house and begs him to go through with the marriage. She embraces him, but he barely registers her, thinking only of the message of Cathleen ni Houlihan. It is a dramatic image, of a woman begging a man to stay behind and pursue a normal life with her, while he becomes more and more determined to sacrifice his life for a political cause.