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Yeats, W. B. Cathleen ni Houlihan.

Summary and Analysis

- one-act nationalist drama set in 1798

- Cathleen ni Houlihan = the symbol of Ireland

Michael Gillane is to marry the beautiful Delia Cahel the next day, the pair has a place to move in, and some little money. A stranger, an old woman, appears and is invited in. She wanders because her land, her beautiful green fields, were taken away from her. She sings and mourns the death of those men who already died for their love to her and of those who are yet to die. The woman is offered meal and a silver coin, but she refuses such help. Introduces herself as Cathleen ni Houlihan (reported to appear always with an approaching war) and says she gathers her new friends and hopes to get her land back. Sings about the troubles her friends will have to suffer, but also about their reward – they are to live forever in memories.

After her leave, Michael is as if spell bound and despite his mother's and bride's pleads departs. The old woman's song is still to be heard outside. Michael's brother Patrick returns from the harbour, reports on the French ships being welcomed there, but denies seeing the old woman – he saw but a young girl walking like a queen.


  • Author

    Yeats, William Butler. (1865 - 1939).
  • Full Title

    Cathleen ni Houlihan.
  • First Peformed

    Dublin, 1902.
  • Form


Works Cited

Yeats, W. B. Cathleen ni Houlihan. (1902). Collected Plays. London: Macmillan, 1953.


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