Zaida bewails the loss of the man she was to marry. The Poet is trying to write a comedy but cannot find suitable material. Inspired by his immediate surroundings he decides to let life itself write the story and to observe the actions of the gullible Geronio and his flighty wife, Fiorilla.
Geronio has been driven to despair by his wife’s erratic moods and asks Zaida for advice. Her attempts at fortune-telling only succeed in aiming his suspicions of Fiorilla’s infidelity. Zaida tells the story of how she should have married a Turkish prince but he became violently jealous as a result of false accusations by her rivals, forcing her to run away.
Fiorilla is bored to tears by the monotony of married life. When the Turkish Prince Selim comes ashore at Naples to see the sights of Italy she is provided with a welcome opportunity for adventure. She and Selim flirt outrageously and she invites him back for coffee. When it transpires that Selim is, in fact, the prince who was to marry Zaida, the Poet realizes that he has a perfect cast of characters for his comedy, The Jealous Husband: a capricious wife, her husband, her admirer Narciso and two separated lovers.
Back at Geronio’s house, Selim and Fiorilla are taking coffee. Geronio comes home in a state of indignation but is obliged to behave politely. Narciso is infuriated by Geronio’s weakness. In the general confusion, Selim and Fiorilla arrange a rendezvous on the waterfront. The Poet is delighted with this quartet. Left alone with his wife, Geronio tries to exert his authority but she outwits him. Selim waits for Fiorilla so that they can leave for Turkey together but the Poet arranges a chance meeting between Selim and Zaida. Their old passion is rekindled. When Narciso and Geronio also arrive, their jealous outbursts and the blazing quarrel between the two women provide the Poet with a perfect finale.
Selim, who appears to have reverted to his passion for Fiorilla, makes an offer to Geronio, according to Turkish custom: either he will buy her or, if the offer is refused, he will abduct her. Geronio is not keen to accept either proposition. Fiorilla is certain that, if it comes down to a choice between her and Zaida, Selim will choose her. When faced with that choice, Selim is unable to decide. Zaida leaves, deeply disappointed by her former lover. Fiorilla spots an opportunity to ensnare him once more.
The Poet warns Geronio that Selim is planning to run off with Fiorilla during a costume party but he has a suggestion: Zaida and Geronio should turn up at the party wearing the same costumes as Fiorilla and Selim and foil their plans. Narciso overhears this conversation and decides to disguise himself and go to the party as well. Albazar considers how happy life would be if we were always given what we wanted.
At the party, confusion reigns as Fiorilla end up with Narciso and Selim with Zaida, leaving a thoroughly confused Geronio out of the picture altogether.
The Poet advises Geronio to pretend to demand a divorce from Fiorilla. Selim has now abandoned her altogether and is planning to return to Turkey with Zaida. When Fiorilla returns home she finds the doors locked against her and is handed her husband’s letter of divorce. She realizes she has no option but to go back to her parents’ house in Sorrento.
Is Fiorilla truly repentant? Can Geronio forgive her? Will the poet get the happy ending he requires...?