The Shaughraun, written by Dion Boucicault (1820-1890) was first performed in New York in 1874. The play was a huge success and earned Boucicault a small fortune. He not only wrote and produced the play, but also starred in the role of Conn, leading him to be given the title of the best stage Irishman, but Boucicault was far from perpetuating stage Irish stereotypes, he actual undermines them: Conn the Shaughraun is no cap-donning peasant, but a quick witted strategist while Molineux, the stiff upper-lipped English captain is mocked for his "You Irish" attitude.
The play is a fast-paced romp, a comedy of wit, wedded to melodrama and set on the wild Irish coast of Sligo. The grim echoes of famine and the centuries of English domination are ever present.
The plot is intricate as it is farcical, nothing is what it seems and within it Bocicault explores the complexities and misunderstandings of English/Irish relations.
The themes of faith, hope, and love are set against greed, betrayal and deception. Required themes of melodrama and Boucciault deploys them to cut across national and class boundaries to give his characters depth and colour