Hall in the palace Holy Rood. The queen’s page runs in. He says there are riots in the city. Some unfamiliar man at the head of the crowd – mummers, masks, dancers with bells, people in black hoods – threatened, predicted and urged the people not to obey the queen. The courtier of Queen Riccio confirms that he also observes from time to time how people greedily listen to these sermons. The page goes on to say that the people broke into the chapel of the Queen with screams: “Nest of Papists!”, That the jester of Darnley – the Queen’s husband – jumped on the altar and began to depict a sermon, and the people answered him with mocking verses. Queen Mary Stewart in despair. She feels the hatred of the people, most of the courtiers left her; she wondered how her Christianity could differ so much from the Christianity of the people of Scotland. Riccio suggests that an immediate decree be issued to punish those responsible for the riots. Maria dictates his page, the page clarifies whether to enter the name of Henry Darnley – the Queen’s husband. Maria hesitates; she suspects that the riots were inspired by them – after all, the mob was chaired by a king’s jester. Here Riccio reminds her that she is the queen; she is like the sun, and she has the right to punish from God. He demands immediately to call the officer on duty to read the decree of the queen. Douglas enters. Maria tells him to take the paper to the royal chancellor Morton, so that he put a seal. Douglas looks over the decree and sees that it does not have the name of the king. He asks the queen about this. For her responsible Riccio. Douglas loses his composure. He calls on the queen not to use bloody suppression measures, hinting that he sees this as a French or Italian influence. But the queen coldly reminds him of her power to eliminate the disobedient to her will of subjects. A quarrel broke out between Riccio and Douglas, Douglas calls Riccio to a duel and swears that he will kill the Venetian tomorrow. The queen retires and leads Riccio. Douglas remains alone, he ponders the fight. Morton enters. Douglas shows him the decree. Morton is indecisive: he is afraid of anger and the king, and the queen. Without applying a seal, Morton bears a decree to the king. At this time, Henry is busy talking with his jester Nick, who teases him that the real power in Scotland is the queen, and Henry is only her husband, that the queen chooses his own associates, for example, this Italian harper Riccio… At this time, Morton brings an ill-fated decree. King in anger, he decides to kill Riccio. Enter the court of King Lindsay, he calls the king to hunt with the newly acquired falcon. Morton replies that today the king already has an occupation. Lindsay willingly adjoins the conspiracy against Riccio. Douglas enters. He literally forbids killing Riccio tonight, because he must kill himself tomorrow morning. Then Henry, taking advantage of the delay, sends a clown to the astrologer to find out what the location of the stars is for his intentions.
The astrologer in his laboratory (he is also an alchemist) argues with himself that experience confirms the futility of science that the purpose, the will of the stars rule over man, dispose of good and evil. Nick enters the fool, spits his wits, the astrologer does not yield to him in wit. Nick reports that the king sent him to ask about the fate of Riccio and tells the astrologer that he predicted death to Riccio. The astrologer responds that he will be prompted by stars, not by humans, and in turn predicts death to the jester. With that, he leaves. Appears astrologer’s page of the queen. The page loves her mistress. The astrologer tells him to tell the queen that today the person she loves will...die. “How, will Botvell die today?” exclaims the page. The astrologer is puzzled. He meant Riccio and rushed the page so he warned about it. Left alone, the astrologer ponders – the stars also appeared that Botvel somehow gloomily connected with the queen – through Mars, Saturn… Enter Botvell. From his monologue it becomes clear that he unexpectedly found himself in the house of an astrologer. Having understood where he got, Botvel asked the astrologer how much he had to live. The old man responds that three years and that Botvel will be king. Botvell takes out a bottle of poison, with which he wanted to commit suicide, wants to throw it away – and hesitates. After all, in the atmosphere of palace intrigues, all weapons are useful. He’s leaving. The old man responds that three years and that Botvel will be king. Botvell takes out a bottle of poison, with which he wanted to commit suicide, wants to throw it away – and hesitates. After all, in the atmosphere of palace intrigues, all weapons are useful. He’s leaving. The old man responds that three years and that Botvel will be king. Botvell takes out a bottle of poison, with which he wanted to commit suicide, wants to throw it away – and hesitates. After all, in the atmosphere of palace intrigues, all weapons are useful. He’s leaving.
The page informs the queen that soon Riccio will come. The Queen is waiting for him with impatience – in her opinion, he alone remained true to her. “And Botvel?” asks the page. “Who is this Botvel?” – The queen is interested. A surprised page tells Mary how, during boating, a strong wind tore off a rose from the Queen’s head, the flower fell into the water. And then one of the courtiers – Botvel – rushed into the boat and terribly chased the oarsman to catch a rose from the water. After hearing the story, Mary sends the page to pray. She confesses to God that she has no more strength to resist her love for Botvel. The Queen knows that at court her is considered to be a lover in Riccio. Riccio enters. Maria reports a mortal danger threatening him and coldly bids him farewell, pointing to him the ship that will take him to Rome. In desperation, Riccio tries to beg the queen to cancel the decision on his departure. The Queen is adamant.
Henry, Morton and Lindsay learned about the forthcoming departure of Riccio and hastily conferred, killed him or let him sail. Then Douglas appears and reports that Riccio has already set sail. Douglas is desperate, he craves bloody revenge, his knightly honor is hurt. Suddenly they meet the page, which carries a note from Riccio to the queen – he did not leave and will be at her in the evening. The conspirators take away the note.
Maria is embroidered in her room. Coming Riccio explains to her that he could not leave, because he had a fight with Douglas in the morning. He admits that he does not need life without her love. He asks Maria to give him a wreath of roses – he will put flowers on the altar in Rome… Enter Henry, Douglas and Dindsey and kill Riccio. The queen faints. Douglas is struck with shame and horror – he voluntarily retires into exile. Henry is concerned that the queen will not hate him. Lindsay carries the king away, whispering to him about the impending hunt. Included guest Queen of the Botvell. Maria comes to her senses, sees the Botvel and confesses to him in love. Botvel forces her to admit that she wants Henry’s death and gives her her poison bottle, saying that it’s a sleeping pill. Maria gives the king this “medicine”, but the poison is drunk by a buffoon. However, nothing can stop the murderous intrigue – Botvell explodes the house of King Henry. In the distance one can hear the growing cries of the crowd. The bitel with the queen is hidden.