Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The story of The Gaol Gate is told through the dialogue of two women—the mother and wife of the executed Denis Cahel—which constitutes three-fourths of the entire one-act play; their brief conversation with the gatekeeper takes the remaining one-fourth. Spoken in the “Kiltartan dialect” developed by Lady Augusta Gregory to represent the Gaelic-tinged speech of the people of her district, it is the talk of two ordinary women who have come a long way on foot and who cannot cease worrying and hoping about what they will find when they arrive at the Galway Jail, nor about the truth of the rumors in their home village that Denis has betrayed his comrades, Terry Fury and Pat Ruane.

Through their conversation, one learns the bare facts of the case of Denis Cahel, who was arrested and imprisoned for “firing a shot” in the nighttime—apparently a murder or an attempted murder. From the gatekeeper, they learn that Denis has been executed because his footprint was found “outside the window” and that his two companions have already been released for lack of evidence against them. This news is both a distress and a relief: The two women now know that Denis is irretrievably gone, but they also know that the rumors spread against him as an informer are false.

The dialogue between Mary Cahel and Mary Cushin begins with the end of their journey from Daire-caol, as they remark on the grim exterior of the jail, and—as in any casual...

(The entire section is 575 words.)