Dan Burke, it seems, is dead, his body lying on his bed beneath a sheet. His young wife Nora has taken a tramp into the house, a man seeking refuge from the cruel weather of the valley in which she lives. They pass pleasantries until Nora's intended arrives, a neighbouring shepherd named Michael Dara, with whom Nora schemes a fresh union even while her husband's body is not yet cold. The comic surprise that follows is a magnificent 'coup de theâtre': that it is followed by a dénouement as unexpected as any the Irish theatre had seen speaks volumes to Synge's sophistication as a playwright and master of his craft. The play was first performed in Dublin in 1903.
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