Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 327
Dan Burke, a white-haired farmer and herder of cows and sheep. He feigns his death and thereby exposes his wife’s lack of affection for him. Lying “in state” in the kitchen of their cottage, he eavesdrops on her conversation with the tramp and the young man whom she welcomes into their home. Dan’s thirst for whiskey compels him to reveal himself to the tramp when his wife briefly leaves the cottage. When she returns and flirts with Micheal Dara, the young man whom she had gone to meet, he triumphantly decries her and throws Nora and the tramp out of the house. Although he is initially angry with Micheal, he invites him to stay for a drink.
A tramp, who hopes to rest for a night and mend his clothing at the Burke home. He is the first to learn of Dan’s trickery. He also encountered Micheal driving mountain ewes earlier in the day. Although he initially seems to comply with Dan’s ruse, he defends Nora after her husband tries to oust her from the cottage. Having lost Dan as an ally, he offers to care for Nora when it is clear that both must leave the cottage.
Nora Burke, Dan’s wife, who lives in his isolated cottage at the head of a long glen in County Wickham. Having married for her husband’s possessions, the lonely younger woman longs for fulfillment in other respects and feels little sadness on the supposed passing of her cold husband. She warmly welcomes the tramp and Micheal when they arrive at the cottage. At the play’s conclusion, she leaves the cottage with the tramp.
Micheal Dara, a young herder, a tall, innocent man who proposes to Nora soon after she invites him into the cottage and shows him her possessions. After Nora and the tramp leave, he shares a drink with Dan and toasts his health.