The action takes place in the wrecked peasant war of Germany in the 16th century. However, the story for the author is just a background, the heroes dressed in old costumes think quite modern, trying to answer the age-old questions: what is Good and Evil, what is the freedom of the human person.
Gets is a libertine, blasphemer, commander-bandit, illegitimate, together with his brother, knight Konrad, fights against the archbishop. But it is worth the Archbishop to promise Gets to give him the possession of his brother, if he goes to his side, as Gets betrays Conrad, kills him during the battle and together with the people of the archbishop besieges the rebellious city of Worms.
In the city there is a famine, people are embittered, the priests have shut themselves up in the temple. A single priest, Henry, is wandering the streets in confusion. He always comforted the poor, so he was not touched. But now his entreaties to rely on the Lord and to love his neighbor do not find a response from the townspeople. They understand the words of their leader, the baker Nastya, who calls to fight to the last.
In the hope of finding bread, the hungry poor thunder the bishop’s castle and kill its owner. But the bishop said the truth: the barns of the castle are empty. Hence, the pogroms will continue and the next victims will be the priests. Dying, the bishop hands Henrich the key to the underground passage into the city. Henry faces a choice: “The poor will kill the priests – or Gets will kill the poor: two hundred priests or twenty thousand people.” Giving the key to Gets, Henry will betray the townspeople and save the servants of the Lord. Whose life is more important? In desperation, Henry goes to the camp of Goetz.
Henry leads to Goetz; it seems to the priest that the devil himself is in front of him, and he refuses to give the key. But Gets is sure that “the priest betrays,” he feels in him a kindred spirit. Like Goetz, Henry is illegitimate; he tries to do Good all the time, he is full of love for people, but the result of both him and the bloodthirsty Goetz is one: evil and injustice.
A banker comes to Gets and asks him not to destroy the city; in return, he offers Gets a huge ransom. Gets refuses: he wants to capture the city “for the sake of Evil”, for all the Good is already done by the Lord. Nastya comes to the camp. He asks Getz to become the head of rebellious peasants, but
Gets also rejects this proposal. He is not interested in fighting with aristocrats: “God is the only worthy opponent.”
“I create Evil for the sake of Evil,” Getz proudly declares, “yet the rest are doing Evil out of lasciviousness or self-interest.” But it does not matter, Henry argues, because it is “God wanted good to become impossible on earth,” and, therefore, nowhere is there any Good or Justice. “The earth stinks to the very stars!”
“So all people are doing evil?” Gets asks. Everything, he answers Henry. Well, then, he, Gets, will do Good. Gets concludes with Henry for a period of one year and one day: during this period, he undertakes to do exceptionally good… And in order to finally “press God to the wall,” Gets proposes to play dice on the city. If he wins, then he burns the city, and God will be responsible for this, and if he loses, the city will be spared. Katerina, the lover of Goetz, whom he once raped, plays and wins. Goetz leaves to do Good, Henry goes after him – to judge the affairs of Getz himself.
Having taken possession of the lands of his brother, Gets distributes them to the peasants. But the peasants are afraid to take master’s lands: they do not believe in the sincerity of Goetz’s intentions. Barons – Getz neighbors beat him: after all, their peasants can demand that they also give up their possessions. Gets avoids blows, but does not resist.
Goetz comes to Nasty. He also asks him to leave the land for himself: “If you wish us well, sit still and do not start a change.” The insurrection that has flared up at the wrong moment is doomed to defeat in advance, Nastya wants to win, and for this it is necessary to properly prepare. But Gets does not listen to him: he loved all people, and therefore he will distribute his land and build on them the City of the Sun.
Peasants gather near the church. Appears Gets. He asks the peasants why they still carry him to the barn when he made it clear to everyone that there will be no more paychecks or duties. “For the time being we will leave everything as it is,” the peasants answer him, because “everyone has his own place.” Then monks appear and, like fairy-tails, sell jokes with jokes and jokes. Gets tries to stop them, but nobody listens to him: the goods are in great demand.
For the indulgence comes the leper. To prove his boundless love for people, Goetz kisses him, but his kiss causes only disgust – like a leper, and crowded around peasants. But when a monk gives a leper absolution. everyone is delighted. “Lord, show me the way to their hearts!” – in despair exclaims Gets.
Appears Henry. He is no longer a priest – he slandered himself, and he was deprived of the right to perform rituals. Now, like a shadow, he follows Getz. Henry tells Gets that Katerina is mortally ill. She loves Getz, but he was touched by grace, and he “gave Katerina a purse and drove her away, which is why she dies.” Trying to alleviate the sufferings of Catherine, Geth states that she takes all her sins upon herself. Rushing to the crucifixion, he pleads with Christ to allow him to wear stigmata and, without waiting for an answer, he himself makes wounds. Seeing the blood streaming down his hands, the peasants fall to their knees. They finally believed Getsu. “Today, the kingdom of God begins for all, we will build the City of the Sun,” Gets tells them. Katerina is dying.
In the village of Getza there is universal love, “no one drinks, no one steals,” husbands do not beat their wives, parents – children. The peasants here are happy “not only for themselves, but for everyone”, they all regret, they do not want to fight even for their own happiness and are ready to die in prayers for those who will kill them.
Appears Gets, then Nasty. A revolt broke out, and Gets was guilty of it; he proved to the peasants that they “can do without priests, and now everywhere there are preachers of rage, they call for revenge.” The rebels have neither weapons, nor money, nor commanders. Nastya proposes to Gets the head of the peasant army – he is “the best general of Germany.” After all, the war will still find him. Gets hesitates. To agree – means again “to hang anyone horrible for the warning – right and guilty”, to pay for the victory in thousands of lives.
And yet, Goetz goes to people “to save the world,” before leaving, ordering his peasants not to get involved in any fights: “If you are threatened, answer the threats with love.” Remember, my brothers, remember: love will make war retreat. ” Confident that this is God directing his steps, he goes to fight for the sake of love.
Henry enters with the flowers on his hat. He tells Gets that the peasants are looking for him to kill. When asked how he knows this, Henry points to the devil standing silently behind him. For some time this couple is inseparable. Henry argues to Hets that all the good that he did, in fact turned out to be an evil even greater than when he just did evil. For God does not care about him. “Man is nothing”. In response, Goetz informs him of his discovery, or, in his definition, “the greatest scam” – there is no God. And so he begins his life first. Shaken by Henry, feeling his rightness, he dies. “The comedy of goodness ended in murder,” states Goetz.
Gets takes over the command of the army: it kills the commander who refused to obey him, orders the deserters to hang. “So the kingdom of man on earth began,” he says to the frightened Nastya. Gets does not intend to retreat: he will make people tremble before him, since there is no other way to love them, he will be lonely, since there is no other way to be together with everyone. “There is a war – I will fight,” he concludes.