The plot of Giselle is takes place in a village in the Rhineland. A nobleman, Albrecht has fallen for a village girl, Giselle. He begins to court her, but he pretends to be but a village boy himself. Giselle is also desired by Hilarion the woodsman, who discovers that Albrecht is in fact a nobleman. A hunting party of nobles arrives midway through the first act. The party includes Albrecht’s betrothed – noblewoman Bathilde. Bathilde, who is charmed by Giselle’s beauty presents Giselle with a necklace. During the stay of the hunting party, jealous Hilarion reveals the true identity of Albrecht. In her shock and pain, the delicate Giselle dies and the first act closes.
Act two takes place at night entirely in a cemetery not far from the village. Hilarion comes to mourn at the grave of Giselle. At midnight, the spirits of young girls who have died before their wedding day rise up from the earth and a terrified Hilarion flees and is pursued to his death. Albrecht too comes to the fresh grave of Giselle bearing flowers, and the spirits or ‘willis’ led by their queen – Myrtha – make him dance until dawn with the intension of killing him by exhaustion. The spirit of Giselle loves him still and succeeds in preventing his death and so Albrecht lives to see the dawn and has a last farewell to the spirit of Giselle before she returns to the grave.