The play starts by presenting Lady Sneerwell, a wealthy widow and her maid, Snake, gossiping as they usually do. Lady Sneerwell does this because in her past, someone destroyed her reputation too. Lady Sneerwell reveals why she is so involved in the matters concerning Sir Peter Teazle, his ward Maria, and Charles and Joseph Surface and why she hasn’t give in to Mr. Joseph’s attentions. She tells Snake that Joseph wants Maria but Maria wants Charles so she and Joseph plotted to make Maria and Charles drift away by putting out a rumor that Charles and Sir Peter’s wife, Teazle, are having an affair.
After Lady Sneerwell finishes explaining, Joseph enters and then Maria who tries to escape Sir Benjamin Backbite and his uncle Crabtree. Maria is followed by Mrs. Candour and then by Sir Benjamin Backbite and his uncle Crabtree who start gossiping and tell them that Surface’s brothers rich uncle will return to England from the East Indies. They also start talking about Charles’ financial situation so Maria choses to leave.
In the next scene, Sir Peter talks about his wife’s spending habits when Rowley arrives. They talk about Maria and how she redetected Joseph and how she seems to like Charles. Rowley defends Charles and then tells Sir Peter that Sir Oliver arrived from the East Indies.
Act two opens with Sir Pete and his wife arguing about how much money she spends but Sir Pete admits that his wife is beautiful even when she is angry.
Lady Teazle goes to lady Sneerwell after the fight she had with her husband. Maria arrives too but she doesn’t start gossiping like the others do. Joseph starts flirting with Maria but she refuses him once again. After Maria leaves, Lady Teazle finds that Joseph doesn’t like Maria but flirts with her anyway because she has money.
Sir Oliver meets with Sir Pete and they talk about Joseph and Charles. While Sir Pete praises Joseph, Sir Oliver thinks that Joseph may be a hypocrite so he is not that quick to believe everything Sir Pete says.
In order to test his nephews, Sir Oliver plans to visit each of them in disguise. He wants to go to Joseph as Stanley, a poor relative, and to Charles as Mr. Premium, a money lender.
Sir Pete and his wife argue again and this time they decide that maybe it will be best if they were to separate.
Sir Oliver arrives at Charles ‘house while he parties and they try to negotiate a loan. Charles offers to sell him his late father’s painting collection and Sir Oliver is pained to see how Charles behaves. Charles sells every painting except for a portrait of Sir Oliver’s. When ‘’Mr. Premium’’ offers to pay a large sum of money from it, Charles still refuses to sell it. After they deal is done, Charles sends a sum of money for the relief of Mr. Stanley, despite’s Rowley’s objections.
Sir Oliver thinks about Charles’ behavior when Rowley comes with the money Charles sent for Mr. Stanley. After this, Sir Oliver decides to go and visit Joseph as Mr. Stanley to see how he is going to behave.
Meanwhile, Lady Teazle is paying a visit to Joseph. They are announced that Sir Pete also arrived and Lady Teazle hides behind a screen door from her husband. Sir Pete tells Joseph about the rumored relationship between his wife and Charles and also urges Joseph to marry Maria much to Joseph’s displeasure who before Sir Pete arrived, tried to convince Lady Teazle to cheat on her husband with him.
Charles is announced to have arrived and Sir Pete decides to hide as well behind the screen door but Joseph convinces him that it is just some random woman and hides him in a closet.
Charles and Joeph start talking about Lady Teazle and how Charkes thinks that Joseph and her are in a relationship but Joseph tells him quietly that Sir Pete is hiding in the room so he changes the subject. Sir Pete comes out and apologizes for believing that there is something between his is wife and him.
Lady Sneerwell is announced and Joseph leaves to stop her from entering the room. Not being able to help himself, Sir Pete looks behind the door to see who the mysterious woman is. He finds that it is his wife and she confesses that she came to Joseph with the intention of having an affair with him but after she found that Sir Pete wanted to let her have a large sum of money she decided against it.
Joseph tries to explain why Lady Teazle was in the room but Sir Pete refuses to listen to him and goes away.
Sir Oliver goes to visit Joseph but he refuses to help Stanly financially, claiming that he has no money even though Sir Oliver sent him a large sum of money from India. After Stanley leaves, Joseph is told that his uncle arrived in town.
In Sir Pete’s house, Lady Sneerwell, Mrs. Candour and Sir Benjamin talk about the rumors surrounding Lady Teazle when Sir Pete arrives and throws them out. He then goes to reconcile with his wife.
Sir liver reveals to his nephews who he is and that he decided to leave his money to Charles. Maria arrives but she refuses to marry Charles because she heard rumors about a relationship between him and Lady Sneerwell. The truth is revealed by Snake and then Maria agrees to marry Charles.