Turiddu, who is betrayed by his lover Lola, seduces Santuzza in revenge. However, unable to forget Lola, Turiddu and she start an affair. In a fit of jealousy, Santuzza tells Lola's husband, Alfio, about the affair, causing Alfio to challenge Turiddu to a duel.
Nedda, wife of traveling show leader Canio, falls in love with Silvio, a young villager. While knowing of his wife's unfaithfulness, Canio prepares for a play musing bitterly, "Even when I weep sad tears, I have to play the clown." During the performance, while Nedda is acting the role of an adulteress, Canio goes mad and stabs his wife to death.