The purpose of this summary is to introduce the story and characters of the play near the beginning of a paper that is going to examine the play at some length. The Colleen Bawn is a 19th century melodrama with a convoluted but fairly conventional plot and the paper is going to detail those scenes central to the analysis as the thesis is explored, so this summary avoids a lot of the ins and outs, pointing to the final fate of the characters, especially the villain, in a way that makes it clear his role is central to the point of the paper.
The Colleen Bawn by Dion Boucicault
The story of the play involves Hardress Creegan, a young Irish gentleman secretly married to a peasant girl, Eily O’Connor (the Colleen Bawn or “fair-haired girl” of the title), whose family estate can only be saved from foreclosure by his marriage to his cousin and social equal, Anne Chute (the Colleen Ruadh or red-haired girl). Danny Mann acts as Hardress and Eily’s go-between and, through a set of circumstances dictated by melodramatic convention, a glove becomes the token of a misunderstanding that leads Danny to attempt the fair-haired Eily’s murder. All, of course, works out well in the end for the play’s upper-crust characters while Danny pays the ultimate price as a social inferior who goes too far.