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A conspiracy is afoot to assassinate fun-loving governor, Ricccardo. He loves Amelia - the wife of his first minister and best friend, Renato. The court has banished the fortune-teller, Ulrica, but Riccardo wants to know if her skills are genuine. He and his supporters dress up as sailors and fishermen, and seek her out.
Suddenly, Amelia arrives for a consultation. Riccardo overhears Ulrica tell Amelia that she must collect certain herbs near the gallows at midnight, and he vows to be there. The conspirators follow Riccardo to the gallows, but Renato arrives and persuades Riccardo to escape, offering to take his place and escort the disguised woman back to her home.
Renato discovers the deception, and in a meeting with the conspirators he wins the right to kill Riccardo himself, at that evening's masked ball. With his dying breath, Riccardo assures everyone that his love for Amelia remains unrequited.