Cathleen ni Houlihan

Cathleen ni Houlihan Quotes and Analysis

"I never thought to see so much money within my four walls. We can do great things now we have it. We can take the ten acres of land we have a chance of since Jamsie Dempsey died, and stock it. We will go to the fair of Ballina to buy the stock. Did Delia ask any of the money for her own use, Michael?"

Peter Gillane

Peter is perhaps the most excited by Michael's dowry from Delia Cahel. He relishes the opportunity to use the money to do the things he's always planned to do on the farm. Here, he outlines those plans.

"My four beautiful green fields."

Old Woman

After Peter and Bridget offer an oat cake and some milk to the Old Woman, who they believe to be a beggar, she tells them she only needs her “four beautiful green fields.” These fields represent Ireland and the “strangers” in her house are the British who have colonized and oppressed her people. This cryptic comment foreshadows that the Old Woman's message is more allegorical than literal.

"It is not her friends you have to go and welcome, Michael; it is the girl coming into the house you have to welcome. You have plenty to do, it is food and drink you have to bring to the house. The woman that is coming home is not coming with empty hands; you would not have an empty house before her. Maybe you don't know, ma'am, that my son is going to be married to-morrow."

Bridget Gillane

After Michael declares he will follow the Old Woman, Bridget tries to reason with him by listing the practical reasons for him to remain home. She wants to convince Michael to pursue a stable and happy life, rather than sacrifice his life for an abstract cause.

"It is a hard service they take that help me. Many that are red-cheeked now will be pale-cheeked; many that have been free to walk the hills and the bogs and the rushes, will be sent to walk hard streets in far countries; many a good plan will be broken; many that have gathered money will not stay to spend it; many a child will be born and there will be no father at its christening to give it a name. They that have red cheeks will have pale cheeks for my sake, and for all that, they will think they are well paid."

Old Woman

Here, the Old Woman is clear in her call to arms, and she inspires Michael to leave his promise of a stable future. She outlines the fact that, though it will be difficult and require a great many sacrifices, and there will be a great deal of tragic loss, the cause is a noble one.

"I did not, but I saw a young girl, and she had the walk of a queen."

Patrick Gillane

This is the final line of the play, and is uttered by Bridget and Peter's young son, Patrick, when he returns home from running an errand. His response suggests that, having earned Michael's loyalty, the Old Woman, Cathleen ni Houlihan, turns into a young woman with a regal bearing. This line directly refers to the supernatural quality of the story, the fact that anything can happen in this world.

"I made the bargain well for you, Michael. Old John Cahel would sooner have kept a share of this awhile longer."


Early in the play, Peter references the fact that he was the one who was able to convince Delia Cahel's father to hand over the entire dowry in a timely manner. He turns Peter's wedding into an entirely financial proposition.

"Well, if I didn't bring much I didn't get much. What had you the day I married you but a flock of hens and you feeding them, and a few lambs and you driving them to the market at Ballina."


When Peter suggests that Michael is lucky for marrying a woman with a large dowry, Bridget fires back at him, suggesting that she did not get much materially from their marriage either. She says that she did not make a huge gain by marrying a simple farmer.

"It is not food or drink that I want."

The Old Woman

When the Old Woman enters the family's house, they want to feed her and give her money, but are surprised to hear that it is not material donations that she wants.

"What wedding are you talking about?"


By the time of Cathleen ni Houlihan's departure, Michael is completely under her spell, and cannot even remember the fact that he is supposed to be married the next day.

"Michael! Michael! You won't leave me! You won't join the French, and we going to be married!"


Michael's fiancée pleads with him not to join the army and fight for Ireland, insisting that he will not go, but it's of no use; he is under Cathleen ni Houlihan's spell.