The tragedy takes place in the Netherlands, in Brussels, in 1567-1568, although in the play the events of these years unfold in a few weeks.
In the city square, the townspeople compete in archery, they are joined by a soldier from the army of Egmont, he easily beats everyone and treats himself at his own expense with wine. From the conversation between the townspeople and the soldier, we learn that the Netherlands is ruled by Margarita Parmskaya, who makes decisions with a constant look at her brother, the King of Spain, Philip. The people of Flanders love and support their governor, Earl Egmont, a glorious commander who has won many victories. In addition, he is much more tolerant of the preachers of the new religion, which penetrates the country from neighboring Germany. Despite all the efforts of Margarita Parma, the new faith finds many supporters among the common people, tired of oppression and the extermination of Catholic priests, from constant wars.
In the palace
of Margarita Parma, together with her secretary, Machiavelli, compiles a report to Philippe about the disturbances taking place in Flanders, mainly on religious grounds. In order to decide on further actions, she convened a council for which the governors of the Netherlands provinces are to arrive.
In the same city, in a modest burgher house, Clara’s girlfriend lives with her mother. From time to time, the neighbor of Brackenburg comes to them. He is clearly in love with Clara, but she has long been accustomed to his affection and perceives him, rather, as a brother. Recently in her life there have been big changes, in their house began to visit himself Count Egmont. He noticed Clara when he drove down their street accompanied by his soldiers and everyone welcomed him. When Egmont suddenly appeared at them, the girl finally lost his head because of him. Her mother hoped that her Clairechen would marry a respectable Brackenburg and be happy, but now she understands that she did not save her daughter, who only waits for the evening to come and her hero appears, in which now the whole meaning of her life.
Egmont is busy with his secretary analyzing his correspondence. Here are letters from ordinary soldiers asking them to pay their salaries and complaints of soldiers’ widows that they have nothing to feed their children. There are also complaints about soldiers who abused a simple girl, the daughter of an innkeeper. In all cases, Egmont offers a simple and fair solution. From Spain came the letter of Count Oliva. A decent elder advises to be more careful about Egmont. His openness and reckless actions will not lead to good. But for a bold commander, freedom and justice are above all, and therefore it is difficult for him to be cautious.
Prince of Orange comes, he informs that the Duke of Alba, known for his “bloodthirstiness”, is sent from Spain to Flanders. The prince advises Egmont to retire to his province and consolidate there, he himself will do just that. He also warns the count that he is in danger of perishing in Brussels, but he does not believe him. To escape from sad thoughts, Egmont goes to his beloved Clarenchen. Today, at the request of the girl, he came to her in the attire of a knight of the Golden Fleece. Clairechen is happy, she sincerely loves Egmont, and he answers her the same.
In the meantime, Margarita Parma, who also learned of the arrival of the Duke of Alba, renounces the throne and leaves the country. In Brussels arrives with the troops of the Spanish King Alba. Now, according to his decree, it is forbidden to citizens to gather in the streets. Even if two people notice together, they are immediately thrown into prison for inciting. The viceroy of the Spanish king seems to be plotting everywhere. But his main opponents are the Prince of Orange and Count Egmont. He invited them to the Culenburg Palace, where he prepared a trap for them. After a meeting with him, their officers are arrested. Alba’s close associates and his illegitimate son Ferdinand. The young man is fascinated by Egmont, his nobility and simplicity in communication, his heroism and courage, but he is unable to contradict his father’s plans. Shortly before the audience begins, the messenger from Antwerp brings a letter from the Prince of Orange, which, under a plausible pretext, refuses to arrive in Brussels. Appears Egmont, he is calm. On all claims of Alba about the unrest in the Netherlands, he responds with courtesy, but at the same time, his judgments about the events are quite independent. The count takes care of the welfare of his people, his independence. He warns Albu that the king is on the wrong path, trying to “trample down” people who are devoted to him, they also count on his support and protection. The Duke is incapable of understanding Egmont, he orders him to arrest him, takes away the Count’s personal weapons, and the guards take him to prison. but at the same time, his judgments about the events are quite independent. The count takes care of the welfare of his people, his independence. He warns Albu that the king is on the wrong path, trying to “trample down” people who are devoted to him, they also count on his support and protection. The Duke is incapable of understanding Egmont, he orders him to arrest him, takes away the Count’s personal weapons, and the guards take him to prison. but at the same time, his judgments about the events are quite independent. The count takes care of the welfare of his people, his independence. He warns Albu that the king is on the wrong path, trying to “trample down” people who are devoted to him, they also count on his support and protection. The Duke is incapable of understanding Egmont, he orders him to arrest him, takes away the Count’s personal weapons, and the guards take him to prison.
Learning about the fate of his beloved, Clairechen can not stay at home. She rushes into the street and urges the townspeople to take up arms and release Count Egmont. The townspeople merely look at her with sympathy and diverge in fear. Brackenburg takes Clairechen home.
Earl Egmont, who lost his freedom for the first time in his life, is seriously undergoing his arrest. On the one hand, recalling the warnings of friends, he feels that death is somewhere near, and he, unarmed, can not protect himself. On the other hand, deep down, he hopes that Oransky will nevertheless come to his rescue or the people will make an attempt to release him.
The King’s court unanimously passes a sentence to Egmont – the death penalty. Learn about this and Clairechen. She is tormented by the thought that she can not help her powerful lover. A visitor from the city of Brackenburg reports that all the streets were filled with King’s soldiers, and a scaffold was erected on the market square. Realizing that Egmont will inevitably be killed, Clairechen steals poison from Brackenburg, drinks it, goes to bed and dies. Her last request is to take care of an aging mother.
About the decision of the royal court informs Egmont the officer of Alba. The count will decapitate at dawn. Together with the officer to say goodbye to Egmont, Alba’s son Ferdinand came. Left alone with the Count, the young man confesses that throughout his life he considered Egmont his hero. And now he is bitterly aware that he can not help his idol in anything: his father has foreseen everything, leaving no opportunity for the liberation of Egmont. Then the Count asks Ferdinand to take care of Clairechen.
The prisoner remains alone, he falls asleep, and in a dream he is Clairechen, who crowns him with a laurel wreath of the winner. Waking up, the count touches his head, but nothing is on it. The dawn breaks, the sounds of victorious music are heard, and Egmont goes to meet the guards who came to lead him to death.