Negina, a popular but poor actress, receives lessons from her fiancé Meluzov. Prince Dulebov, intending to take advantage of the girl's dire circumstances, suggests sponsorship, gets refused and becomes spiteful. Despite the latter's intrigues, Negina's benefice performance is triumphant and she receives a 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 expressing their affection, among them Narokov, Naluzov and Velikatov. She leaves honest but dull Meluzov and goes away with rich Velikatov, motivated not by greed but by the desire to work on stage, the only thing she is really in love with.