The Rising of the Moon is a play written by Isabella Augusta Persse which centers on three Irish police officers who serve the occupying English government and one escaped political prisoner who is loyal to the Irish nationalists. The play opens with the three police officers hanging wanted posters which describe the 100-pound reward for the fugitive.
The Sergeant, suspecting the fugitive will try to escape via the sea, waits at the wharf while the other two police officers continue hanging posters. Soon, a man in rags claiming to be a ballad singer approaches the wharf, and the Sergeant orders him to leave by way of the town, as he expects the prisoner. The man in rags looks at the wanted poster and reveals information about the fugitive which forces the Sergeant to keep him close. The man in rags sings rebel songs, which launches a discussion in which it is revealed that the Sergeant was at one point partial to the Irish cause.
When a passing ship responds to the man in rags, it is revealed that the man in rags is the prisoner, and eventually the Sergeant lets him escape without capturing him.
The major theme of the play is identity. The characters' identities are immediately introduced as that of police sergeant and fugitive, which seem to be inherently good and inherently bad, respectively. However, once the Sergeant and the fugitive are able to connect through conversation, they realize they share their Irish identity, which ultimately supersedes their identities as sergeant and criminal.