This comedy of manners opens with Dorimant, a libertine, seated at his dressing table, reciting verses from a Spanish battle. He converses with a market woman who sells oranges; the dialogue is ribald and risque: Dorimant refers to her as a "flasket of guts" and "Doutle Tripe." This orange-woman tells Dorimant about a young gentlewoman who has come to town with her mother.
Dorimant's friend, Medley enters, saying, "My darling sin," kissing him. Medley identifies the young lady and her mother who have recently come to London. Devilishly, Dorimant is intrigued by the goodness of the mother and beauty of the girl.
The orange woman departs and the two men converse about Mrs. Loveit, Dorimant's lover, whom he wishes to be rid of. He has a new lover in the person of a friend of Loveit and they plan to stir up Loveit's jealousy to the point that she will leave Dorimant. The shoemaker arrives, suggesting in bawdy terms that Dorimant "strike his shoe" in the same manner as he loves his mistress.
Then, a handsome young man, Bellair, enters and tells Dorimant about his love, Emilia. Medley and Dorimant ridicule his "faith" and innocent devotion to the woman. Medley continues jesting by relating the affectations of a Sir Fopling Flutter, a man of acquired follies who imitates the French, calling him a "coxcomb."
Before Bellair leaves, Medley and Dorimant urge him to marry so the town can laugh since this marriage is against his father's wishes.
A letter arrives for Dorimant from Loveit; after a disparaging remark, he departs, singing verses.