Sergeant Kite in the market square of Shrewsbury city calls on all those who are unhappy with their lives to enlist in grenadiers and promises ranks and money. He invites those who wish to try on a grenadier's cap; people listen to him cautiously and do not rush to enlist in the army, but when Kite invites everyone to have a drink and there appeared a lot have wishing to have a drink at someone else's expense. Appears Captain Plume. Kite reports to him about his successes: over the past week he recruited five, including a lawyer and a pastor. Plume orders immediately to release the solicitor: they do not need literacy in the army, they might complain. But the pastor, who plays the violin, is very useful. Kite says that Molly from Kasda, who Plume recruited the last time, has given birth to a child. Plume demands that Kite adopt the child. Kite objects: then he will have to take her as his wife, and he has so many wives and he gets out the list. Plume suggests writing Molly to the Kite’s list, and the newborn boy Plume will add to his list of recruits: the child will be listed in the list of grenadiers under the name of Francis Kite, released on a visit to his mother.
Plume meets an old friend - Worthy. Worthy says that he is in love with Melinda and wants to take her to maintenance, when suddenly the girl received twenty thousand pounds as a legacy from her aunt - Lady Capital. Melinda now looks down on Worthy and does not agree not only on the role of the mistress, but also on the role of his wife. Unlike Worthy Plume is a convinced bachelor. His girlfriend Sylvia, who believed that they had first get married, and then enter into a close relationship, had nothing achieved. Plume loves Sylvia and admires her open noble character, but freedom is more precious to him.
Sylvia comes to her cousin Melinda. Whimsical Melinda is the complete opposite of the active fun of Sylvia. Upon learning of the return of Captain Plume Sylvia decides at all costs to become his wife. Melinda is amazed by her arrogance: does Sylvia imagine that a young wealthy officer will link his life with a daughter of some judge? Melinda considers Plume a libertine and a slacker, and friendship with Plume only harms Worthy in her eyes. Sylvia reminds Melinda that she was only recently ready to go to Worthy for maintenance. Word for word and girls quarrel, Sylvia leaves, telling the cousin that she did not work to return her visit. Melinda wants to interfere with Sylvia's plans and writes a letter to Judge Balance.
Mr. Balance receives news of his son's death, now Sylvia is his only heiress. Balance announces to daughter that her condition has increased significantly, and now she must have new attachments and new perspectives. "Know yourself price and throw Captain Plume out of your head," says Balance. While Sylvia had fifteen thousand pounds of dowry, Mr. Balance was ready to give her for Plume, but a thousand two hundred pounds a year would ruin Plume, drive him crazy. Balance receives a letter from Melinda, where she warns him against Plume: she has found out that the captain has dishonorable intentions for her cousin, and she advises Balance to immediately send Sylvia to the village. Balance follows her advice, having first taken with Sylvia the word that she would not give her hand to anyone without his knowledge, and promised not to force her into marriage. Upon learning of Melinda's letter, Worthy tells Balance that she quarreled with Sylvia and wrote a lie. Balance rejoices that Plume is not a deceiver, but nevertheless is content that his daughter is far away.
Kite tries to recruit Thomas and Costar: in front of portraits of the queen he gives them gold coins. Approaching Plume explains to them that if they have royal money, then they are recruits. Thomas and Costar are indignant and accuse Kite of fraud. Plume pretends to intercede for them. After driving Kite away he extols the soldier's life and boasts that he did not carry a musket for very long, but now he is a commandor. Disposing to himself gullible guys, he persuades them to enroll volunteers.
Plume and Worthy are equally unlucky: while their beloved were poor, everything was fine, but as soon as Melinda and Sylvia got rich they put up their noses and did not want to know them. Worthy hopes to outsmart Melinda. Plume wants to outwit Sylvia in his own way: he will stop thinking about her. He was admired by Sylvia's magnanimity and nobility, and he does not need arrogant Sylvia with all her money. Seeing a cute village girl Rosie, Plume flirts with her, and Kite meanwhile tries to get into the confidence to her brother Bullock. Rosie returns from Plume with gifts. To the question of Balance about what gifts were received for, she responds that Plume will take her brother and two or three of her suitors into the soldiers. "Well, if everyone will recruit soldiers like that, soon every captain will become a father to his own company," notes Balance.
Worthy complains to Balance that he has a rival - Captain Brazen, who makes court to Melinda. Melinda appointed Brazen a rendezvous by the river, Worthy followed him to see this. Walking along the shore of the Severn, Melinda complains to her maid Lucy that she has not received declaration of love for two days already. Seeing Captain Brazen, she is surprised that this brainless chatterbox has the audacity to make court to her. Lucy is afraid that Brazen might have mentioned that Melinda had given him a date: in fact it was Lucy who had actually appointed him a date. Worthy appears and Melinda, in order to annoy him, goes hand in hand with Brazen. When they return Plume approaches them and tries to beat Melinda away from Brazen. Brazen calls Plume to a duel: who wins will get Melinda. After being the subject of a dispute between a fool and a reveler, the girl asks Worthy for protection and runs away with him. Appears Sylvia in a man's dress. Identofying herself as Jack Wilfull she says that she wants to enlist and will go to the one who offers more. Plume and Brazen vied with the golden mountains. "Wilfull" had heard many good things about Captain Plume. Plume rejoices and says that it is he, but Brazen says: "No, it's me - Captain Plume." Plume submissively agrees to be called Brazen, but still wants "Wilful" be enlisted by him. Plume and Brazen cross swords, and in the meantime Kite takes Sylvia away.
Discovering that the recruit has disappeared, the captains make up and leave as friends.
"Wilful" and Plum try to please Rosie. A smart peasant woman can not decide who is dearer to her, and asks what each of them can give her. "Wilful" promises her an impeccable reputation: she will have a luxurious coach and lackeys, but that's enough so that everyone will be ashamed of his virtue and envy someone else's vice. Plume promises to give her a scarf with sparkles and a ticket to the theater. Rosie is already ready to choose a ticket to the theater, but then "Wilful" puts Plume before the choice: either he refuses of Rosie, or "Wilful" enlists with Brazen. "Take her. I will always prefer a man to a woman" Plume concedes. "Wilful" asks what waits for him when he enlists. Plume intends to leave the young man by himself. "Wilful" agrees, because he feels that the most severe punishment for him will be if Plume expels him, and for "Wilfull" it is easier to go with him into the heat than to let Plume be alone.
Melinda complains to Lucy about the coldness of Worthy. Accidentally meeting him, Melinda treats the poor in love so much that Worthy curses Plume advising him to hold on to Melinda coldly and alienated.
Kite, posing as a fortuneteller, receives visitors. He predicts to the blacksmith that in two years he will become captain of all smithies of a huge artillery and will receive ten shillings a day. A butcher Kite promises to be the chief surgeon of the entire army and a salary of five hundred pounds a year. When Melinda and Lucy come to him, he predicts Melinda that the next morning a gentleman will come to her to say goodbye before leaving for the distant lands. His fate is connected with the fate of Melinda, and if he leaves his and her life will be broken. As soon as Melinda leaves, Brazen appears. He was going to get married and wants to know if it happens in a day. He shows love letters and Worthy recognizes Lucy's hand. And Plume learns that Balance sent Sylvia to the village because of Melinda's letter. Friends rejoice: Melinda is faithful to Worthy, and Sylvia to Plume.
The constable arrests Sylvia, Bullock and Rosie and leads them to Judge Balance. Sylvia, who this time calls herself captain Scale, is accused of seducing Rosie. But Captain Scale explains that he and Rosie played a wedding according to the military regulations: they put the sword on the ground, jumped over it and went to the bedroom under the drumbeat. Balance asks what led the captain to their land, and Sylvia replies that provincials do not have the mind, and he, the capital gentleman, has no money. Upon hearing such insolent speeches, Balance orders Sylvia to be taken to prison and kept there until further notice.
Arriving at ten in the morning to Melinda, Worthy meets an affectionate reception.
Brazen is going out of town on a date with the lady of his heart. To prevent her friends from recognizing Worthy, she will come in a mask and remove it only after the wedding. Worthy hurries to the bank of the river and finding Brazen with a lady in a mask calls him to a duel. The lady takes off her mask. Seeing that this is Lucy, Worthy retreats: he has nothing against the marriage of Brazen. But Brazen does not want to marry Lucy, he thought Melinda was with him, because Lucy wrote a letter on her behalf.
In the courtroom Balance, Skade and Scruple sit behind the judges' chair. The prisoners are introduced. The first of them is not charged and Kite takes him away. The next prisoner - the miner - is accused of being an honest fellow. Plume dreams of having at least one honest person in his company, and Kite takes him with his wife. When the turn comes to Sylvia, she holds so defiantly that the judges unanimously decide to turn her into soldiers. Balance asks Captain Plume, under any pretext not to let the insolent boy from military service.