The "Prologue" warns the audience about how they will be able to enjoy the work that the author composed for men, filled with love and hate, and how he has tried to capture a piece of life in the stage. A group of clowns comes to a town. The company, directed by Canio, is formed also by his wife Nedda, the humpback Tonio and Beppe. They announce that this night, at 11 p.m., they are going to give a big performance. However, it doesn’t take long to show how fragile is the relationship between Nedda and Canio, and how jealous and violent he is. When Nedda remains alone, worried by the jealousy of her husband and anxious for her freedom, there appears Tonio, which was not gone, and continues observing it. She discovers him, and makes fun of him and his ridiculous attempts of conquering her, to what the humpback gets violent and attacks her. With the riding crop, she manages to avoid him, while he swears revenge. Silvio, Nedda’s lover, arrives. Both are very in love, but he does not resist any more the situation and wants to convince her to leave Canio and the circus, to remain with him. Tonio discovers the lovers while they talking passionately. The humpback runs to look for Canio, who discovers the lovers at the same time they are combining the flight for that same night, after the performance. Canio in despair tries to chase the lover, but he loses him out of sight, without being able to recognize him. Desperate Canio demands to his wife to reveal the name of her lover, but she refuses. Beppe tries to calm Canio down, and reminds to him that people are still to come and wants to laugh. Canio is guted, but the show must go on. As the matter the fact, they represent the show as prepared: Colombina (played by Nedda) is waiting for her loving Arlecchino (Beppe) to come, while her husband, Pagliaccio (Canio), is not at home. Arlecchino serenades her; Colombina signes him to let him know she’s alone, but there comes Taddeo (Tonio), the buffoon also in love with Colombina. She pushes him back, and together with Arlecchino, she throws him out comically. Then, after a small “love” scene, Taddeo warns that Pagliaccio is suddenly coming back. Colombina and Arlecchino run away desperately, but when they say their goodbyes Nedda puts in Colombina mouth the same phrases she told her lover and that Canio overheard earlier: the commitment to seek each other later that same night. The parallelism between the reality and the fiction is unnerving. Canio does an attempt to maintain the comedy, but it is impossible. He is a drunk and injured man, and he wants to know the name of her wife’s lover. Driven by despair, he demands to recover his man rights, over the clown. Nedda tries to continue in play her Colombina, but Canio is full of anger, and already uncontrolled. The audience is sure that everything is part of the show, but openly, Canio ends up by killing Nedda, while he demands the name of her lover. Dying, Nedda murmurs asking Sivlio for help, who is in the stalls. Silvio tries to help her, and Canio kills him too.