Dion Boucicault’s The Colleen Bawn is based on Gerald Griffin’s 1829 novel The Collegians, itself inspired by the true story of Ellen Scanlon, a young woman murdered in 1819. Young Ellen was married to John Scanlon, but when he decided his family would never accept her, he paid his servant to kill her. Inspired by the conflict between two worlds, Boucicault crafted the love story between aristocrat Hardress Cregan and Eily O’Connor, the provincial Colleen Bawn (Irish Cailín Bán, meaning “innocent girl”).
Hardress Cregan is an upper-class young man, expected to marry his cousin Anne in order to secure her fortune and ensure his widowed mother’s comfort. However, Hardress is already married to Eily, a lovely common girl. He visits her in secret, but the financial pressure of his future forces him to question his choices, even though he is in love with Eily. At the same time, Anne is in love with Kyrle Daly, Hardress’ best friend (and he reciprocates her feelings). Hardress’ mother is pursued by the detestable but financially powerful Mr. Corrigan. Confusion abounds, and a loyal servant believes that Hardress wants his young bride eliminated. The tensions between the sophisticated world of the aristocrats and the common world of Muckross Head reach a climax. In The Colleen Bawn, Boucicault crafts a spectacular melodrama of songs and humor, heartbreak and reunion, filled with engaging and complex characters steeped in Irish culture.
The Colleen Bawn guide sections