While returning from a victory in battle with his prizes Hippolyta and Emelye, Theseus, the Duke of Athens, is asked to resolve a conflict with Creon, the King of Thebes. He wins two hostages, Palamon and Arcite, and locks them in a tower.
Arcite and Palamon see Emelye in the garden outside of their tower, and instantly fall in love with her.
Arcite is set free and Palamon escapes. They both cannot leave Athens for long without being drawn back to Emelye. They challenge each other to a duel and are discovered by Theseus, who plans a final tournament for them a year hence, between each man and their respective armies.
Both men ask for help from the gods before the battle, which causes a conflict between Mars and Venus. Jupiter, the king of the gods, resolves this by having Arcite win the battle, but being thrown from his horse and gravely injured.
On his deathbed, Arcite tells Emelye that she should marry Palamon, a worthy knight.
All of Athens grieves for Arcite’s death, and then Palamon and Emelye are married in a joyous ceremony, which Theseus arranges.