The Shaughraun

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The Shaughraun was one of the most successful plays of Boucicault’s career. The play is set during the Fenian insurrection of 1866, and presents a comic drama based around the lives of familiar Irish characters. It opened at Wallack’s in New York on November 14, 1874. To appeal to American audiences, Boucicault took the advice of playwright and theatre manager Augustin Daly and presented the play, not with historical seriousness, but for those wishing to “escape the financial depression,” and “be made to laugh not think.” Despite this delivery type, there are many deep historical events and feelings still touched upon. Both the Anglo-American and Irish-American public were receptive to The Shaughraun, however the Irish-American audience most likely identified with the semblance of alienation apparent amongst the play’s main Irish characters. One character, Robert, a well-loved Irishman, is deported falsely by the English, and must dodge the corrupt powers that be to return home. His sister Claire, left in the wake of his deportation, and scrounging to get by, has seen her family estate turned into touristic ruins. Boucicault himself played the lovable vagabond character of Conn, who, throughout various acts of cunning compares himself to a resourceful fox, and, in the end, is the reliable Irish male needed to save the town from the hands of a crooked Irish tyrant. The Irish community of New York presented Boucicault with honors for his services to Irish drama, and later Boucicault was moved to write to the British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, demanding that Irish prisoners in Britain and Australia be released.