Cast | 04.01.2018
England in about 1650, at the time of the power struggle between Oliver Cromwell’s Puritans and the royal Cavaliers. King Charles I. goes to his execution, followed by the pitiless looks of the Puritans.Act 1
Lord Walton has promised the hand of his daughter to one of his officers, Sir Richard Forth. However, Sir Richard has found out that Elvira is in love with another: Lord Arthur Talbot. Distraught, he relates his woes to his friend, Sir Benno Robertson. Benno tries to comfort Sir Richard and take his mind off his troubles. Elvira learns from her Uncle, George, that he has been able to persuade her father to allow her to follow her heart; her nuptials with Arthur can take place that very day. The assembled crowd celebrates the arrival of Lord Arthur and cheers the young couple.
Lord Walton declares that he cannot attend the wedding because he must accompany a mysterious state prisoner from the Fortress to parliament. This woman prisoner is suspected of being a spy for the Stuarts. He declares that no one shall leave the fortress without a pass. He gives a pass to Arthur. Elvira withdraws a dress for the wedding, and the others follow her. The prisoner and Arthur are left alone. Arthur recognizes the prisoner as Henrietta, widow of the executed Charles I.
Since she faces the same fate as her husband, Arthur, a secret adherent of the Stuarts, is prepared to do all he can to save her from death. When Elvira returns, she asks Henrietta to put on the bridal veil so that she can see how it looks. Henrietta obliges. Elvira has to go back to her room. Left alone once more with the unfortunate woman, Arthur persuades Henrietta to escape – under the protection of the bridal veil to conceal her identity.
As they depart, they meet Sir Richard, who is determined not to let Arthur have his beloved Elvira without a fight. He challenges Arthur to a duel. Henrietta throws herself between the two men, the veil becomes disarranged, and Sir Richard realizes he has misjudged the situation. He decides to allow the couple to escape, delighted that it was not Elvira under the veil. The wedding party returns to the room and is outraged at the flight of Arthur and the prisoner. Elvira is completely stunned by the faithfulness she wrongly supposes Arthur to be guilty of and loses her reason.
The occupants of the fortress bemoan Elvira’s lot. Sir Richard reports that parliament has condemned Arthur to die. Elvira’s behavior in front of Sir George and Sir Richard leaves no doubt of her wretched mental state. Sir George believes that a welcome surprise could restore her sanity. He implores Sir Richard to save Arthur. At length, Sir Richard agrees: only if Arthur is in league with the enemy shall he die.
In a forest
Arthur’s love for Elvira drives him to leave his exile to see her. The strains of a romance issue from the house, sung by Elvira, and Arthur joins in.
When Elvira enters, Arthur explains the reasons for his flight and begs her forgiveness. At times, Elvira seems to be in possession of all her senses. But as Arthur’s pursuers approach, she loses her reason again. She takes the Puritans’ drums for wedding music and believes Arthur will leave her again.
The puritans enter bearing torches and threaten to kiss Arthur. The shock of seeing her lover in danger of his life restores Elvira to her senses. The situation seems hopeless, Elvira and Arthur wish each other farewell forever.
A herald arrives with the news of the defeat of the Stuarts and a pardon for all the prisoners. Elvira falls into the arms of Arthur; in this moment, Richard flings himself at the couple and stabs Arthur.