Act One (Prologue)
Ravenswood Castle. The castle's retainers, led by Norman, captain of the guard, are searching the area. Lord Henry Ashton, the owner of the castle, appears. He is burdened with the knowledge that recent events have considerably worsened his position, while the influence of the hated Ravenswood family or, more accurately, the last of the line, Edgar Ravenswood, has begun to increase. Lord Ashton's only hope is to engineer a successful marriage for his sister Lucia, but she has refused every proposal. Lucia's tutor, Raymond, tries to calm Henry by telling him that the girl is still grieving over the death of her mother and is unable to think of love. Norman demurs, saying that Lucia has long been in love with the man who saved her from a rampaging bull. They have met every day since, and Norman suspects that the stranger is Edgar Ravenswood. Henry is incensed.
This news is the harshest blow that fate could deal him. The castle retainers return. They have seen the mysterious stranger, and it is indeed Edgar. Lord Ashton bitterly swears to be avenged.
Accompanied by her maid Alice, Lucia is on her way to meet Edgar. Alice is afraid that Lord Ashton will see them. Lucia is also nervous, but for a completely different reason: They are standing at the spot where one of the Ravenswoods once killed the woman he loved. The ghost of the murdered woman has recently appeared to her, beckoning Lucia to follow her. When the ghost disappeared, the water in the fountain turned red with blood. Alice fears that this is a premonition, and begs Lucia to forget her dangerous love. But Lucia cannot stop loving Edgar – when she is near him she forgets all her fears and suffering. Edgar appears. He apologizes for being late, but he has been meeting with his confederates. It has been decided that Edgar must leave immediately for France to seek support for the struggle for a new Scotland. Before his departure, he wants to talk with Ashton. Edgar intends to offer him a truce and to ask for Lucia's hand. Lucia persuades her lover that this would be fruitless. Henry killed his father and seized their family castle. What more could appease his hatred? Edgar swore his undying hatred of the Ashtons on the grave of his murdered father, but then he met Lucia and his heart was filled with a completely different feeling. He has not forgotten his oath, however. Lucia begs him for the sake of their love to forget all his oaths. Then Edgar, swearing his eternal love and fidelity before God, places his ring on her finger. Lucia, also calling on the heavens as witness to her love, gives him her ring. It is time for Edgar to leave. Lucia begs him to remember her always, and to write.
A room in the castle. Henry awaits Lucia anxiously. He has invited guests to the wedding ceremony, and the groom, Lord Arthur Bucklaw, will be arriving shortly. Lucia, however, has not given her consent. Norman reassures him: All the letters that Edgar has written during his long absence have been seized and replaced with artful forgeries in which Edgar confesses that he has fallen in love with another woman. As his sister enters, Henry sends Norman to meet Arthur and escort him into the castle. Henry chastises Lucia for being so melancholy on the day of her wedding. She replies that his cruelty is the cause of her grief. Henry tries to persuade his sister to forget her illicit love and to find happiness with her eminent husband. She refuse, at which point Edgar hands her the forged letter. Lucia is shattered: All her tears, her hopes, and her yearning have been wasted on an unfaithful man. The noise of festivities can be heard. Henry explains to his sister that only she can save him. Raymond comes to Lucia. He has also been convinced of Edgar's betrayal and persuades his charge to submit to her fate. If she is not destined to be happy in love, she can at least sacrifice herself and save her family. Lucia agrees.
A hall in the castle. The retainers and guests enthusiastically greet Lord Bucklaw. Arthur assures Henry of his friendship and promises his support. He wishes to see his bride. Henry warns that Lucia is still dejected after the death of her mother. Arthur tries to find out about Edgar, but their conversation is interrupted by the appearance of Lucia, led in by Alice and Raymond. Eager to avoid delays, Henry hands her the marriage contract. Lucia signs it, saying “My sentence is signed”. At that moment, Edgar, who has heard about the wedding, bursts into the hall. On seeing him, Lucia faints. Edgar realises that he still loves Lucia, and Henry feels the weight of his conscience. When she comes to, Lucia cannot understand why death has not taken her. Recovering themselves, Henry and Arthur draw their swords and demand that Edgar leave. Edgar, however, is ready to fight them. Raymond interceded, begging them in the name of God not to spill blood. Edgar announces that Lucia has sworn fidelity to him. Raimon shows him the marriage contract. Edgar asks Lucia if that is her signature. Lucia tries to say something to him, but then resignedly hands back his ring. Edgar curses her. The guests menace him. Lucia prays for his salvation, and for death to come and relieve her of her suffering.
A hall in the castle. The guests continue to celebrate the wedding. Raymond breaks up the festivities with terrible news: hearing a scream, he ran to the newlyweds' chambers and found Arthur dead from a stab wound. Lucia, standing over his body, asked with a smile: “Where is my husband?”. Just as Raymond finishes his tale, the crazed Lucia appears in the hall. She thinks that she is once more in the park, on the way to meet her beloved. Then she sees a church, where she is married to Edgar. Henry runs to her. When he hears of the death of Arthur, he throws himself on his sister, but is horrified to find that she thinks him to be Edgar and begs his forgiveness for following the orders of her cruel brother and signing the marriage contract. In her delusions, she sees Arthur, then Edgar, and she begs to be allowed to die, so that she can be reunited with her beloved in heaven. Henry places Lucia in the care of Raymond. As he exits, Raymond blames Norman for the intrigues that have led to this tragedy.
Edgar wanders among the graves of his forefathers below the castle walls, and dreams of joining them as he cannot live without Lucia. Soon he will die, and she will stroll past his grave with her husband, and she will not even remember the one who died for her. The grieving guests begin to leave the castle, and Edgar learns of Lucia's madness. She calls out to him in her delirium. Edgar rushes into the castle, but is stopped by Raymond. Lucia is no longer among the living. Edgar addresses her soul as it leaves this world, and promises to follow her. If the wickedness of men has divided them on earth, then the mercy of God will reunite them in heaven. Edgar stabs himself, and Raymond and the guests can only pray for the salvation of his soul.