XVII century, the time of the reign of Louis XIII. In Gascony, in a dilapidated castle, Baron de Sigonyak drags on a miserable existence, the last descendant of a once noble and powerful race, a young man of about twenty-five, “who would easily be known as handsome if he did not at all give up the desire to please.” Together with him poverty is shared by the faithful servant Pierre, the cat Beelzebub, the dog Miro and the horse Bayard.
On one of the rainy autumn evenings, at the door of the castle, “this stronghold of the great post” and “refuge of poverty”, the actors of the vagabond theater knock and ask for shelter. As is customary, every comedian has his own permanent role, which is why he often behaves in life as he does on stage. Blazius is a pedant everywhere and in everything; The first lover Leander – handsome and veiled; The roguish servant Skapen manners reminds a fox; boastful warrior Matamor, as expected, “thin, bony and dry, like a hanging man in the summer”; flirtatious and selfish Serafina performs the role of heroines; the venerable aunt Leonard – “noble mother” and duenya in combination; irresistible for men coquettish substratum Zerbin “as if made of dough flavored with salt, pepper and spices”; shy and charming young Isabella performs the role of simpletons and unlike her merchandise does not try to attract attention. Isabella “was not blinded – she was captivated, which, of course, is more valuable.” The head of the troupe is the Tyrant, a great good-natured man endowed with nature “with all the external signs of ferocity”, why he is destined to play Herods and other formidable kings.
With the arrival of this motley company, the castle comes to life: the fire crackles in the fireplace, food appears on the table. For the first time in a long time, the young baron feels happy. Listening to the chatter of actors, he constantly casts a glance at Isabella: the baron fell in love…
In the morning, the comedians are going on their way. Isabella, in whose soul the tender feelings for Sigonyak awakened, invites him to go with them – in search of glory and adventure. The lover knight happily leaves the dull walls of the patrimonial nest and in the vehicle of Thespide follows his beautiful lady.
In the roadside tavern the actors meet their neighbor
Sigonyak, the Marquis de Bruyère. The Marquis recognizes the Baron, but, realizing that he was in the troupe because of his love for Isabella, he lets him know that he is not going to disclose his incognito. Moreover, that the Marquis is captivated by a coquettish subreth and, wishing to continue his love affair, invites the troupe to give a play in his castle.
On the way to the Marquis, the actors are attacked by the former leader of the gang, and now the lonely bandit Agosten, assisted by a small thief and robber Chikita. To frighten passers, Agosten arranges the corpses of his former comrades along the road, armed with muskets. However, brave Sigonyaku are not afraid of any villain, he easily disarms Agosten and reveals his deception. Estimating the invention, the actors reward the inventive bandit with a pair of pistols, and Isabella gives Chikita his pearl necklace, thus earning the touching appreciation of the little thief: the girl promises never to kill her.
The play, played by the Tyrant troupe at Bruyères Castle, is a huge success. The Marquis is falling head over heels in love with a charming substitute, and Leandro manages to win the heart of the beautiful Marquise de Bruyère. However – alas! – his fervent letter to the Marquis was intercepted by his husband, and he orders his servants to beat the poor Gistrion with sticks. The Marquis de Brewer reserves the right to change his marital duty solely for himself.
Substantially replenishing his coffers, the actors leave the castle. Leander rubs his bruised sides. On the way, their van is overtaken by a rich wagon decorated with the arms of the Marquis de Bruyère. Servants in the livery of the Marquis take away a pretty little subtlety – of course, with her full consent – to an ardent admirer. On the way, Isabella tells Sigonyaku the sad story of her life. Her mother, an actress who played in the tragedies of queens, was not only very handsome, but also proud and always repulsed by annoying suitors. Only once her heart trembled, and she succumbed to a powerful and noble nobleman. The fruit of this love was Isabella. State interests did not allow the nobleman to marry an actress. Isabel’s mother, not wanting to be obligated to any treacherous lover, fled with her little daughter and continued to play on stage. Soon she died – withered from anguish, and little Isabella remained in the troupe of Tirana, where she was raised. She does not know the name of the father, only the ring with the family coat of arms has survived from him.
In the way of the actors, a blizzard is caught, during which Matamor dies. The troupe in despair – without the comic captain can not play a single play from their repertoire! Wanting to thank his new friends, Sigonyak decides to take Matamora’s place on the stage. He declares that he resets his baronial title, “hides it in a stowage, as an unnecessary dress” and takes the name Captain Fracassus!
At the farm actor Bellmobra Sigonyak successfully debuts in the role of Fracassa to the peasants. But ahead of him awaits a severe test: in Poitiers, he will go on stage in front of the notable public, that is, to curl, play a coward and a fanfaron, blow down a stick from the fetish Leander before his peers by birth. To overcome shame, Sigonyak puts on a cardboard mask with a red nose, quite suitable for his image.
The gentle participation of the beautiful Isabella helps Sigonyak play her role brilliantly. The performance has a wild success. Moreover, Zerbin returns to the troupe, and she became bored with the role of a mistress. However, behind her is the marquis: he can not deny himself the pleasure of seeing on the stage his fanciful lover.
A modest Isabella suddenly has a noble admirer – the young Duke de Vallombreuse, a haughty handsome man, spoiled with light victories over women, became very passionate about her. Having received a well-deserved rebuff, the duke is enraged. Penetrating into the dressing room, he carelessly gestures to stick a fly on the chest of the young actress. Sigonyak’s iron hand stops the fugitive. Without removing the mask, the baron summons the duke to a duel.
The duke does not believe that under the guise of Fracassus the nobleman is hiding, and sends those in his service to break off the brave comedian. But Sigonyak, along with fellow actors, disperse the servants of the Duke. And in the morning to the duke is the Marquis de Brewer and brings him a call from Baron de Sigonyak. The Marquis confirms the nobility of the Baron’s kind and hints that the young man joined Iskabel because of Isabella’s wandering actors. Vallombreuse accepts the challenge.
Sigonyak, whose teacher was only the faithful Pierre, who once fought in the fencing master’s field, without knowing it himself, studied the noble art of swordplay to the fineness. He easily defeats the duke – he hurts him in the arm, thus depriving him of the opportunity to continue the duel.
After learning about the duel, Isabella is frightened and touched at the same time – because of her noble Sigonyak risked his life! There is an explanation of the lovers. Baron offers Isabella’s hand and heart. But she rejects him: a stray actress has no right to the hand of a nobleman, and honor does not allow her to become his mistress. Like his lover, Sigonyak is both desperate and ecstatic, but he has nothing left to do but follow the troupe, protecting Isabella from the intrigues of Wallombreuse.
Seeking to hide from the persecution of the Duke, the actors go to Paris, hoping to get lost in his multitude. But the vengeful grandee is watching over them. In Paris, he hires a first-class swordsman and Jacqueline Lampourd’s brighter to kill Sigonyak. However, the baron owns a sword better than an assassin and disarms him. Lampourd, admired by the fencing skill of the young man, swears to him in eternal devotion. Honest breter even promises to return to the customer the money paid to him for the murder of Sigonyak.
Vallombrez tries to steal Isabella from the hotel, where the actors stopped, but he does not succeed. The furious duke goes on a trick. He sends his servant to Tirana, and on behalf of a certain count he invites actors to a castle near Paris, promising to pay well. Hardly the wagon leaves the city, as the servants of the Duke abduct Isabella: they attack her when she and Sigonyak slowly walk behind the wagon. To Sigonyak failed to beat the girl, he is thrown a wide cloak with a lead in which he is entangled, as if in a network. When the baron manages to free himself, the kidnappers are already far away. Actors understand that they were deceived. Sigonyak swears to kill the duke.
The abductors bring Isabella to the castle of Wallombreuse. In it, the girl discovers Chikita: a small thief accompanies Agosten, hired along with other brethren to guard the castle. Isabella asks the girl to tell Sigonyak where she is.
The Duke of Vallombreuse attempts to take possession of Isabella, but arriving Sigoniac and his fellow actors disrupt his plans. Between Sigonyakom and Vallombrez begins a fierce duel, and the baron mortally wounded his opponent. Suddenly appears the father of the duke – the majestic prince de Vallombreuse. Having learned about the dishonorable act of his son, he came to punish the guilty and restore justice. Noticing Isabella’s hand on her ring from her mother, he recognizes him and understands that the kidnapped his son is his daughter.
Actors, along with Sigonyak leave the castle. The prince leaves with him his newly-found daughter. The Duke of Vallombreuz, who turned out to be Isabella’s brother, is dying.
Sigonyak, whom nothing else keeps in the troupe of stray comedians, leaves them and, mourning his love, returns to his native castle, intending to spend the rest of his days in his dull walls.
By the efforts of the doctors and the care of Isabella, the duke recovers. Wanting to atone for his sister, he goes to Sigonyak to reconcile with him and offer him the hand of Isabella, whom the prince de Vallombrez recognized as his daughter.
Isabella is getting married to Sigonyak. She takes them to the service of her friends-actors, as well as the defunct Chikita: the bandit Agosten was sentenced to the wheel, and the little thief, saving her friend from a shameful execution, stabbed him with her dagger.
So, the baron’s dreams came true: the family castle was restored, the coat of arms of Sigonyak flashed – three storks on the azure field, the faithful Bayard and Miró found a warm stall, and Pierre – a rich livery. True, Beelzebub dies, but through his death Sigonyak becomes rich – after going to bury the cat, he finds a treasure.
Lovers united, the abode of grief became the abode of happiness. “Verily, fate knows what it does!”