The play starts at the Old Moor’s castle, where his son, Francis, reads a letter from Leipsic concerning his brother’s actions. Charles, the Old Moor’s other son, behaved in a disturbing manner, seducing a noble girl then killing her fiancé, and then he accumulated a large sum of debt and started an outlaw band. As a result of his actions, the Old Moor is informed that his son is wanted by the police.
The Old Moor is affected by what his dear son has done and Francis suggests that his father disown Charles as a way to protect his name and protect himself from pain. After much persuasion, the Old Moor agrees to withdraw his protection and only offer it again if his son repents. Francis argues that his brother may fool him and then the Old Moor lets his son write the letter through which he disowns Charles and exits the room.
After the Old Moor leaves, Francis thinks how well his plan worked and that now his father’s wealth is only his.
In a tavern on the Frontier of Saxony, Charles and Spiegel talk about literature. Spiegel reveals his intention of starting an outlaw band when Charles receives the letter his brother sent him, informing him of his father’s decisions. Charles agrees to become the leader of the outlaw band, angering Spiegel who was hoping to be the leader.
At the Old Moor’s castle, Francis tries to convince Amelia, the girl Charles loved, that Charles doesn’t lover her anymore and that he has found someone else. Amelia refuses to believe him and throws him out of her room.
Francis gets one of the servants, Herman, to be a part of his plans. Herman also resents Charles because he too loves Amelia and Francis promises him that he will give Amelia to him if he pretends to be some stranger who fought with his brother and saw him die.
Herman comes before The Old Moor disguised while Amelia sings to him and tells him that his son Charles, died on the battlefield while fighting bravely. Herman tells them that Charles blamed his father for his death and that he hinted that Amelia must move on and marry Francis. She refuses and exits the room crying. She returns after Francis leaves and stays to be with the Old Moor. He suddenly starts feeling ill and dies.
Spiegel returns to the camp in the forest with a large group of robbers with him. He tells the other robbers that he and his band raped a nunnery before returning. Charles also returns to the camp with a robber who was supposed to be hanged but was saved. Charles is pained to hear that men from his band killed children, women and old people without feeling remorse.
The robbers are trapped when men ambush them and Charles commands them to fight for their life. Father Dominic comes into the camp and tells the robbers that they will all be forgiven if they hand over Charles. They all refuse to betray their captain so they start fighting.
Herman refuses to accept money from Francis in exchange for his silence and Francis is ready to kill him when Herman also draws his pistol. Realizing that there is nothing he can do for now, Francis sends Herman away. Herman goes to Amelia and confesses that both the Old Moor and Charles are alive.
After the battle in the woods, the robbers only lose one man, Roller. They are approached by Kosinsky who asks to be accepted into Charles’ band. At first, Charles refuses to let him but then Kosinsky tells him his story. He was a nobleman, in love with a girl named Amelia. The night before they were to be married, Kosinsky was accused of treason and put into the prison. He was let out later only to find out that Amelia agreed to be the prince’s mistress to save him. Kosinsky enraged, went to the minister’s house armed and ready to kill him. There, he was arrested again and deported after he was destitute of all his properties. After hearing his story, Charles decided to return to his father’s castle and once he arrived there, he decided to go disguised as Count Brand.
Charles is recognized by Daniel, the old servant, but tells him to keep the secret and not let anyone know that he was at the castle. They he goes to Amelia but doesn’t reveal his identity. Spiegelberg tries to persuade Ratzmann to help him assassinate Karl, but Schweitzer stabs him to death.
After Charles returns to the camp, he starts thinking about suicide but then decides against it. He sees Herman bringing food to the Old Moor and Charles frees the Old Moor who doesn’t recognize him and lets Herman ge, telling him to go and bring him Francis.
Francis begins to be tormented by the things he has done and begins having nightmares and visions. The robbers attack the castle and Francis strangles himself. When Schweitzer discovers him, he kills himself too.
Charles lets his father know his true identity and the Old Moor dies. Charles and Amelia are reunited but they can’t remain together because of the oath Charles took. Amelia asks Charles to kill her and he refuses at first but ends up killing her when he sees a robber taking aim at her. After that, Charles leaved to give himself up.