Prince Myshkin recollects the years of treatment in Switzerland. There he was plagued with the important thought: “Perhaps, the world is saved with beauty.”
Rogozhin’s room in 1868
In his search of Nastasya Filippovna, Prince Myshkin comes to Rogozhin’s place. Parfyon Rogozhin points at his bed.
3. On the Train
End of 1867. Prince Myshkin is returning to Saint Petersburg from Switzerland. He is twenty six; he is the last of the princely stock of Myshkin. Early in life he became an orphan who suffered from a serious nervous malady and was sent to a Swiss sanatorium by Pavlicheff, his keeper and good benefactor.
On the train he meets Parfyon Rogozhin, a son of the rich merchant, and Lukyan Timofeevich Lebedev, a clerk. From his companions he learns of Nastasya Filippovna Barashkova who has lived at Prince Totsky’s expense. Now Totsky wishes to get rid of her because he figures on his marriage to Adelaida, a daughter of General Epanchin.
Rogozhin tells him that one day he came across her in the Nevsky to be dead gone on Nastasya Filippovna. Now he is full of vim and vigour enough to seek her hand in marriage.
Finally, Rogozhin invites the prince to come to his place to go to Nastasya Filippovna’s. The prince promises to make a visit to him.
At General Epanchin’s house
Afanasy Ivanovich Totsky and Ivan Fyodorovich Epanchin discuss a deal. Totsky wants Nastasya Filippovna to be given on marriage to General Epanchin’s secretary, Gavrila Ardalyonovich Ivolgin also known as Ganya. Totsky began supporting her when she was a child and now gives her a dowry of 75 thousand rubles. If the demi-mondaine says her decisive word, Prince Totsky will be free to marry the general’s daughter.
Suddenly Ganya interrupts their conversation. He says that Myshkin, a distant relative of the general’s wife, asks to be guested. Totsky goes away.
5. General Epanchin’s Study
General Epanchin meets Prince Myshkin who is found to be a distant relative of the general’s wife.
Ganya shows the general Nastasya Filippovna’s portrait; she herself gave it to Ganya when he was congratulating her on her twenty sixth birthday. The general reminds Ganya that his fate may be sealed today. Ganya hands in doubt. On the one hand, his mother and his sister oppose his marriage to the former demi-mondaine. Besides, this marriage would be a blur on his reputation. On the other hand, the seventy five thousand rubles which Totsky gives her as a dowry will give him a chance to further increase his capital and raise himself above the crowd.
Prince Myshkin notices the portrait too. He is taken aback by her beauty and fate. “I can’t say whether she is good and kind, or not.” Ganya makes certain that the prince learned of Nastasya Filippovna from Rogozhin.
The general’s wife and his daughters, Adelaida, Aglaya and Alexandra, sing and play music off-stage.
Ganya takes the prince aside to query him about Rogozhin: “Would Rogozhin marry her, do you think?” The prince tells him that Rogozhin would do tomorrow and murder her in a week. Ganya confesses that he marries Totsky’s mistress, Nastasya Filippovna, for money only and that if “that proud and self-loving woman” sets her face against it, he will leave her immediately and take the money.
Their conversation is interrupted by asking the prince to come to see the general’s wife.
6. Mrs. Epanchina’s Drawing-room
The general acquaints the prince with his family. They query the prince about his life and laugh at his naïve answers.
The prince tells them how he met with a man who had once been brought to the scaffold, but later he had been reprieved. Aglaya asks him jocularly to tell them about his love affairs. Prince Myshkin says that he has not been in love, and that he has been happy in another way. Swiss children loved him and had been melancholy when they saw him off.
Out of pure simplicity of soul, the prince suddenly says that Aglaya Ivanovna is almost as beautiful as Nastasya Filippovna and thinks that it was stupid of him to speak of the portrait and Ganya. Mrs. Epanchina wishes to see the portrait. The prince goes to fetch it.
At General Epanchin’s house
Ganya is wild with the prince: “What on earth must you go blabbing for? Curse the idiot!” Prince Myshkin is openly apologetic for his letting on about the portrait and alleges his illness. Ganya swallows his words and gives the portrait to the prince.
Ganya suddenly asks Prince Myshkin to undertake to give a note to Aglaya Ivanovna so that no one else should see the prince gives it. The prince agrees to do it. Ganya says that the general arranged for the prince to live at the general’s house.
Gania goes away. The prince examines the portrait in his hand. Is seems to him suddenly that the portrait comes to life. He has an unreal vision: Nastasya Filippovna’s image comes out of the portrait. The obsession disappears, and the prince is so impressed that raises the portrait to his lips.
Aglaya appears. She scrutinizes the portrait and suddenly asks the prince: “You admire this kind of beauty, do you?” “There is much suffering in this face,” murmurs the prince.
The prince hands her Ganya’s note, and Ganya himself comes in at the same time. Aglaya asks him to read it aloud. In the note Ganya begs Aglaya to send him back the one word of sympathy to enable him to break off with Nastasya Filippovna. His attitude offends her. If he breaks off everything without telling her a word about it, in that case she will perhaps be able to accept his friendship. Otherwise she is not going to condescend to bargain.
8. At the Ivolgins’
Prince Myshkin comes to Ganya’s place.
Before Prince Myshkin has time to occupy his room and gets acquainted with the other occupants – from Ganya’s relatives to Ferdishchenko, a man in an unknown trade, two unexpected events occurs. Nastasya Filippovna suddenly comes to invite Ganya and his relatives to dinner. Neither Ganya’s mother nor his sister is glad to see her. She took the prince for the footman at first and was astonished at his modesty.
Soon Rogozhin arrives to slap money down – eighteen thousand rubles – before Nastasya Filippovna so that she could relinquish her marriage to Ganya Ivolgin. A kind of chaffer takes place, about which Nastasya Filippovna is sarcastic – eighteen thousand rubles, for her? Rogozhin does not back off; he rises to forty and then to a hundred thousand.
Ganya’s mother and his sister feel greatly injured. For them, Nastasya Filippovna is a harlot who should not be allowed to be in polite society. For Ganya, she is a hope of enrichment. There is a scandal: Varya, Ganya’s sister, spits in his face; Ganya aims a blow at Varya, but suddenly the prince’s hand catches his. Ganya fetches the prince a slap across the face. “Oh! How ashamed you will be of this afterwards!” says Myshkin gently. He addresses his next phrase to Nastasya Filippovna in a tone of approach: “Are you really the sort of woman you are trying to represent yourself to be?”
Expressing her regrets to Ganya’s mother, Nastasya Filippovna suddenly kisses her hand and goes away. Rogozhin follows her, saying: “You’ve lost the game, Ganya. You’ve lost the game!”
Rogozhin’s room in 1868
In his search of Nastasya Filippovna, Prince Myshkin comes to Rogozhin’s place. Parfyon Rogozhin points at his bed. A motionless woman is silhouetted against the bed.
10. Nastasya Filippovna’s Drawing-room
The evening on the occasion of Nastasya Filippovna’s birthday
Among her guests there are Afanasy Ivanovich Totsky, Ivan Fyodorovich Epanchin, Ganya, and even Ferdishchenko who amuses them with a cockroach song.
Struck by Nastasya Filippovna’s beauty, Prince Myshkin comes uninvited to see her. Nevertheless, she lets him in. She asks him whether she should marry Ganya and receives a negative answer. Nastasya Filippovna agrees with him and explains her decision with the fact that the prince is the only man in her life who trusted her at first sight. Thus she blows up plans of Totsky who is present there. She gives Totsky’s money back to Totsky and General Ivolgin’s pearls back to the general.
The company headed by Rogozhin and Lebedev beat up the quarters again. Rogozhin places on a table a hundred thousand rubles rolled in a newspaper.
The stage is again held by Prince Myshkin who, with his feelings injured by the company, declares his love for Nastasya Filippovna and expresses his readiness to take her as a good, honest woman, but not as Rogozhin’s mistress. However, the decision is taken: Nastasya Filippovna goes together with Rogozhin; she throws the money packet into the fire and draws Ganya on to pick it out. Ganya hangs on by the skin of his teeth not to pull it out. He wants to go away but faints. Nastasya Filippovna fishes out the packet with tongs and leaves it for Ganya. She says the prince good-bye and finally utters: “I have seen a man for the first time in my life.”
At the Epanchins’ six month later
Ganya hands Aglaya a note from Prince Myshkin. He asks where the prince has been till now, and Ganya says that he has entered upon his inheritance. Aglaya reads the note in which the prince asks for a meeting with her.
13. Rogozhin’s Study
The prince makes a visit to Rogozhin. Six months passed, but Parfyon has not yet married Nastasya Filippovna. She runs away from him twice and from the prince too. Rogozhin retrieved her time and time again.
Having suffered from guilt, the prince comes to Rogozhin’s place to assure Parfyon that he has never been and will not be his enemy. Rogozhin confesses in return that Nastasya Filippovna hates him. Once Rogozhin beat her and then knelt for a day at her feet to implore her forgiveness. She forgave him and agreed to marry him. His heart pines away all the same; he knows that she loves the prince. She agreed to marry Rogozhin because she had been afraid of ruining the prince.
Suddenly Rogozhin offers the prince to exchange their crosses, as a sign that it makes them brothers. Swept away by emotions, Rogozhin says: “Well, take her! It’s Fate! She’s yours. I surrender her.... Remember Rogozhin!”
On the way to the hotel, the prince occasionally passes Nastasya Filippovna’s house. He thinks whether he should ring the bell. She is not at home, she has gone to Pavlovsk. Now he sees the same eyes that he has seen at the station – Rogozhin’s crazy eyes and the knife chopped at him. He falls in an epileptic fit. Rogozhin runs away.
14. Ganya Ivolgin’s Country-house in Pavlovsk
Here Prince Myshkin is recovering after his epileptic fit. Ganya has taken him to bring to Pavlovsk.
The prince tells Mrs. Epanchina how matters stands. Mrs. Epanchina is disquieted by the letter he sent to her daughter.
The prince assures her that he is not in love with her daughter. Mrs. Epanchina warns him that her daughter will never fall in love with him.
Ganya Ivolgin’s country-house in Pavlovsk
Prince Myshkin sees Mrs. Epanchina off. Suddenly the conversation turns to Nastasya Filippovna. Mrs. Epanchina wishes to know whether the prince is married. The prince is in a puzzle.
It develops that Aglaya receives letters from Nastasya Filippovna. However, Mrs. Epanchina does not know what they are about.
Occasionally, not from spite, the prince insults Lizaveta Prokofievna. She denies him admission. The prince says that Aglaya has already shut the door upon him. It varies her mood, and now she wants the prince to come to the Epanchins’ house. They go away together.
16. The Epanchins’ Country-house
There are Adelaida and Aglaya on the terrace of the country-house. Mrs. Epanchina brings the prince along. She needs to know what the correspondence is between the prince and her daughter. That makes Aglaya’s cup run over. Aglaya says that she will never marry the prince though everyone says it.
The prince feels abashed. He assures those present that he never thought of such a thing. The awkward situation has been defused, and everybody laughs in relief.
Suddenly Aglaya links her arm through the prince’s arm and takes him aside.
The Epanchins’ country-house
Prince Myshkin sees that Aglaya points at the bench in the desolate part of the park. She dates up the prince at the morning, when all the rest are still asleep.
18. In the Park
The prince drowses on the bench. He seems to saw Nastasya Filippovna for a moment, but the vision is a fleeting obsession.
Aglaya appears to confess that she wishes to run away from home with him. The prince is the most honest and upright of men. She won’t be a general’s daughter any more. She wants to travel and be free. If the prince disagrees, she will marry Ganya Ivolgin. The prince cannot make up his mind. Aglaya asks whether he loves “that horrible woman”, and the prince says that he doesn’t love her and that earlier he loved her out of pity.
Aglaya confesses that Nastasya Filippovna writes to her in order to persuade her, Aglaya, to marry the prince. She begs him to take those letters and throw them back to her. “If she dares so much as write me one word again…”
Her mother appears. Aglaya hurries away, saying that she will marry Ganya Ivogin. Left alone, the prince is distracted. He reads one of the letters and learns from it that Nastasya Filippovna invokes Aglaya to arrange Aglaya’s wedding and her with Rogozhin on the same day.
Nastasya Filippovna comes to there too. She kneels at the prince feet. He just needs to know what Aglaya said. She is eager for the prince to marry Aglaya. “Are you happy?” she asks the prince. “Yours and mine on the same day,” agrees the prince.
Gania welcomes Prince Myshkin and warns him that Aglaya Ivanovna will call for him. She wishes to meet with Nastasya Filippovna and wants the prince to accompany her.
20. At Nastasya Filippovna’s Place
Prince Myshkin and Aglaya Ivanovna come to Nastasya Filippovna’s place. Rogozhin is already there.
Aglaya severely and unfriendly asks Nastasya Filippovna to stop writing to her and meddling in the prince’s affairs. Injured with the rival’s voice and her attitude towards her, Nastasya Filippovna biliously says that she can prove that the prince won’t be able to leave her. She orders that the prince should stay. The prince is torn between the two women. He loves Aglaya and pities Nastasya Filippovna so much that he stops with her.
Aglaya runs away through hatred. The prince is just about to hurry after her, but Nastasya Filippovna faints. The prince runs to Nastasya Filippovna. Rogozhin splashes water on her face. Nastasya Filippovna banishes from Rogozhin’s presence and stays with the prince.
21. Square before the Church
The chanting voices in the church is heard. Prince Myshkin’s wedding with Nastasya Filippovna is to be soon.
A lot of onlookers gather in the square. Among them there are Lebedev and Ferdishchenko, who wish to satisfy their ravening interests. Totsky and General Epanchin are there too; they are thankful that Nastasya Filippovna is to marry at last. Rogozhin and his friends arrive here too. People kick up their heels.
The newly-weds appear to go to the church. Suddenly Nastasya Filippovna rushes from the prince with a load cry: “What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I doing to you?” She runs to Rogozhin who slips a fur coat on her and takes her away.
22. At Rogozhin’s
In his search of Nastasya Filippovna, Prince Myshkin comes to Rogozhin’s place. Parfyon Rogozhin points at his bed. A motionless woman is silhouetted against the bed. The prince comes to the bed and turns the sheet back. There is Nastasya Filippovna killed by Rogozhin. Prince Myshkin goes mad.