A popular but poor actress, Negina, is being taught sciences and high moral principles by her fiancée Meluzov. Prince Dulebov, intending to take advantage of the girl's dire circumstances to his advantage, suggest sponsorship. The actress refuses Dulebov in sharp terms, making an old man spiteful and revengeful. Despite the latter's intrigues, Negina's benefice performance is triumphant, she receives large sum of money, part of which Dulebov himself has to provide to keep his face. Still, the entrepreneur refuses to prolong her contract. One after another ecstatic admires come to her to express their affection. Narokov, Naluzov and Velikatov confess they were in love with her. After some reflections she leaves honest but dull Meluzov and goes away with rich Velikatov, her motive being not money but the ability to work on stage, the only thing she’s really in love with.