The action takes place in a secluded villa in rural Umbria at the beginning of the 20th century. The room reproduces the decoration of the throne room of Henry IV, but to the right and left of the throne – two large modern portraits, one of which depicts a man in the costume of Henry IV, the other a woman in the suit of Matilda of Tuscany. Three young men – Arialdo, Orduffo and Landolpho – dressed in costumes of the 11th century, explain to the fourth, just taken on the service, how to behave. The newcomer – Bertholdo – can not at all understand which Henry IV speech is: French or German. He thought he should portray the approximate Henry IV of France, and read books on the history of the sixteenth century. Arialdo, Orduffo and Landolfo tell Bertholdo about
The old valet Giovanni enters the dress coat. Young men start jokingly ban him as a man of another era. Giovanni tells them to stop the game and announces that the owner of the castle Marquis de Nolly has arrived with the doctor and several other people, among them the Marquise Mathilde Spina, portrayed in the portrait of Matilda of Tuscany, and her daughter Frida, the bride of Marquis de Nolly. Signora Matilda looks at her portrait, written twenty years ago. Now he seems to her a portrait of her daughter Frida. Baron Belcredi, the lover of the marquise, with whom she dives without end, objects to her. The mother of the Marquis de Nolly, who died a month ago, believed that her crazy brother, who imagined himself Henry IV, would recover, and bequeathed his son to take care of his uncle. A young Marquis de Nolly brought a doctor and friends in the hope of curing him.
Twenty years ago the company of young aristocrats decided to organize a historical cavalcade for entertainment. Uncle Marquise di Nolly dressed Henry IV, Matilda Spina, in which he was in love – Matilda of Tuscany, Belcredi, who came up with a cavalcade and who was also in love with Matilda Spina, rode behind them. Suddenly the horse of Henry IV stood on its hind legs, the rider fell and struck his head. No one paid much attention to this, but when he came to himself, everyone saw that he was taking his role seriously and considered himself to be Henry IV. The madman’s sister and her son coveted him for many years, closing his eyes to his insanity, but now the doctor has conceived to present Henry IV at the same time the marquise and her daughter Frida, like two drops of water similar to the mother she was twenty years ago, that such a comparison will give the patient the opportunity to sense the difference in time and generally cure it. But first, everyone prepares to appear before Henry IV in medieval costumes. Frida will portray his wife Bertu from Susi, Matilda – her mother Adelaide, doctor – bishop Hugo Clunyisky, and Belcredi – accompanying his Benedictine monk.
Finally, Arialdo announces the arrival of the emperor. Henry IV is about fifty years old, he has dyed hair and bright red spots on his cheeks, like a doll’s. Over the royal dress on it is the robe of a penitent, as in Kanossa. He says that once he wears clothes repentant, then he is now twenty-six years old, his mother Agnes is still alive and early to mourn for her. He recalls various episodes of his “life” and is about to apologize to Pope Gregory VII. When he leaves, the agitated marquise falls almost barely to the chair. On the evening of the same day, the doctor, Marquise Spina and Belcredi discuss Henry IV’s behavior. The doctor explains that madmen have their own psychology: they can see that they are mummers in front of them, and at the same time believe like children, for whom the game and the reality are one and the same. But the Marquis is convinced that Henry IV recognized her. And she explains the mistrust and dislike that Henry IV felt towards Belcredi, the fact that Belcredi is her lover. The Marquise seems that the speech of Henry IV was full of regrets about his and her youth. She thinks it was misfortune that made him wear a mask that he wants, but can not get rid of. Seeing the deep excitement of the marquise, Belcredi begins to be jealous. Frida tries on a dress in which her mother portrayed Matilda Tuscany in a lavish cavalcade.
Belcredi reminds those present that Heinrich IV must “jump” not twenty years since the accident, but as many as eight hundred that separate the present from the era of Henry IV, and warns that it may end badly. Before playing the conceived play, the marquise and the doctor are going to say goodbye to Henry IV and convince him that they have left. Henry IV Very much afraid of the hostility of Matilda of Tuscany, the ally of Pope Gregory VII, so the marquis begs to remind him that Matilda of Tuscany, together with the abbot of Cluny, asked him for Pope Gregory VII. She was not at all hostile to Henry IV, as it seemed, and during the cavalcade, Matilda Spina, who was portraying her, wanted to draw Henry IV’s attention to this, to make him understand that although she was mocking him, but in fact not indifferent to it. Doctor in the costume of Cluny’s Abbot and Matilda Spina, in the suit of the Duchess of Adelaide, say goodbye to Henry IV. Matilda Spina tells him that Matilda of Tuscany was busy with him before the pope, that she was not an enemy, but a friend of Henry IV. Henry IV is thrilled. Seizing the moment, Matilda Spina asks Henry IV: “Do you still love her?” Henry IV is confused, but, quickly mastering himself, reproaches “the Duchess of Adelaide” for betraying the interests of her daughter: instead of talking to him about his wife, Bertha, she constantly tells him about another woman. Henry IV talks about the upcoming meeting with the pope, about his wife Bertha from Susi. When the Marquis and the doctor leave, Henry IV turns to his four associates, his face completely changes, and he calls the recent guests jesters. The young men are amazed. Henry IV says that he fools everyone, pretending to be crazy, and everything in his presence becomes jesters. Henry IV is indignant: Matilda Spina dared to come to him with her lover, and still thinks she showed compassion For the poor patient. It turns out that Henry IV knows the real names of the young men. He suggests that they laugh together at those who believe that he is crazy. After all, those who do not consider themselves crazy, in fact, no more normal: today they think the true one, tomorrow – the other, the day after tomorrow – the third. Henry IV knows that when he leaves, the electric light burns in the villa, But he pretends not to notice it. And now he wants to light his oil lamp, the electric light blinds his eyes. He says Arialdo, Aandolfo, Orduffo and Bertholdo, they had to create an illusion for themselves, feel themselves to be people living in the eleventh century, and watch from there how, in eight hundred years, the people of the twentieth century rush into captivity of unsolvable problems. But the game is over – now that the young men know the truth, Henry IV will not be able to continue his life as a great king.
A knock at the back door is heard: it was the old valet Giovanni, who depicts a chronicler monk. The young men begin to laugh, but Henry IV stops them: it’s not good to laugh at the old man, doing it for the love of his master. Henry IV begins to dictate Giovanni his life story.
Wishing everyone good night, Henry goes through the throne room to his bedchamber. In the throne room, in place of the portraits, exactly reproducing their poses, stand Frieda in the suit of Matilda of Tuscany and the Marquis of Nolly in the costume of Henry IV. Fried calls to Henry IV; he flinches frightened. Frida becomes scared, and she starts screaming like mad. Everyone who is in the villa, rush to her help. No one pays attention to Henry IV. Belcredi tells Frida and Marquise de Nolly that Henry IV has long since recovered and continued to play a role in order to make fun of them over everyone: four young men have already managed to divulge his secret. Henry IV looks at all with indignation, he is looking for a way to get revenge. He suddenly has the idea to re-immerse himself in pretense, since he was so treacherously betrayed. He starts talking to the Marquis de Nolli about his mother Agnes. The doctor believes that Henry IV again fell into a madness, Belcredi also screams that he again began to play a comedy. Henry IV tells Belcredi that although he has recovered, he has not forgotten anything. When he fell from the horse and hit his head, he really went crazy, and it lasted twelve years. During this time his place in the heart of a beloved woman was taken by a rival, things changed, friends changed. But one day he seemed to wake up, and then he felt that he could not return to his old life, that he would come “hungry like a wolf, at a feast, when everything has already been removed from the table.” When he fell from the horse and hit his head, he really went crazy, and it lasted twelve years. During this time his place in the heart of a beloved woman was taken by a rival, things changed, friends changed. But one day he seemed to wake up, and then he felt that he could not return to his old life, that he would come “hungry like a wolf, at a feast, when everything has already been removed from the table.” When he fell from the horse and hit his head, he really went crazy, and it lasted twelve years. During this time his place in the heart of a beloved woman was taken by a rival, things changed, friends changed. But one day he seemed to wake up, and then he felt that he could not return to his old life, that he would come “hungry like a wolf, at a feast, when everything has already been removed from the table.”
Life has gone ahead. And the one who secretly stabbed Henry IV’s horse secretly, forcing her to stand on its hind legs and to drop the rider, lived peacefully all this time. Henry IV says that he decided to remain crazy to experience a special kind of pleasure: “to experience in your enlightened mind your madness and thereby take revenge on the rough stone that smashed his head.” Henry IV is angry that the young men told about his recovery. “I recovered, gentlemen, because I perfectly know how to portray a madman, and I do it calmly, all the worse for you if you are experiencing your madness with such emotion without knowing, not seeing it,” he declares. He says that he did not participate in the life in which Matilda Spina and Belkredi grew old, for him the Marquis is forever like Frida. Masquerade, which Fried was forced to play, is by no means a joke for Henry IV, rather, it’s just an ominous miracle: the portrait came to life, and Frida now belongs to him by right. Henry IV embraces her, laughing like a madman, but when Frieda tries to wrest from his embrace, he suddenly snatches a sword from Landolfo and wounded Belcredi, who did not believe that he was crazy, in the stomach. Belcredi is taken away, and soon from behind the scenes Matilda Spina’s loud scream is heard. Henry IV is shocked that his own invention was life, forcing him to commit a crime. He calls his friends – four young men, as if to protect himself: “We will stay here together, together… and forever!” that he is crazy, in the stomach. Belcredi is taken away, and soon from behind the scenes Matilda Spina’s loud scream is heard. Henry IV is shocked that his own invention was life, forcing him to commit a crime. He calls his friends – four young men, as if to protect himself: “We will stay here together, together… and forever!” that he is crazy, in the stomach. Belcredi is taken away, and soon from behind the scenes Matilda Spina’s loud scream is heard. Henry IV is shocked that his own invention was life, forcing him to commit a crime. He calls his friends – four young men, as if to protect himself: “We will stay here together, together… and forever!”