Dan Burke, it seems, is dead, his body lying on his bed beneath a sheet. His young wife Nora has taken in a Tramp into the house, a man seeking refuge from the cruel weather of the valley in which she lives. They pass pleasantries until Nora's intended arrives, a neighbouring shepherd named Michael Dara, with whom Nora schemes a fresh union even while her husband's body is not yet cold.
The comic surprise that follows is a magnificent coup de theâtre: that it is followed by a denouement as unexpected as any the Irish theatre had seen speaks volumes to Synge's sophistication as a playwright and master of his craft.
First performed in Molesworth Hall, Dublin, in 1903, In the Shadow of the Glen was the first play by Synge to be presented professionally, and, in its one act structure, contains the germ of all of the great playwright's oeuvre: comedy, macabre, rural isolation and the motivating power of lyrical speech.