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The Rhineland of the Middle Ages. A village is celebrating the grape harvest. Duke Albrecht of Silesia, a young nobleman, is madly in love with the shy and beautiful village girl, Giselle. Though he is already betrothed to Bathilde, the princess of Courtland, he disguises himself as a humble villager named 'Loys' in order to woo Giselle, who knows nothing of his true identity and happily returns his affections. Hilarion, a coarse-mannered gamekeeper, is also in love with Giselle and attempts to convince her that 'Loys' is untrustworthy. Giselle's mother Berthe is very protective of her daughter, as Giselle has a weak heart that leaves her in delicate health. Fearing that a romantic relationship with 'Loys' would cause Giselle potentially harmful stress. But Giselle ignores all warnings. A hunting party of noblemen arrives at the village; Bathilde and her father are in attendance as well. The villagers welcome the party and perform several dances in celebration of the harvest. Bathilde is charmed with Giselle's sweet and demure nature and gives her a gold necklace. Hilarion halts the festivities by presenting Giselle with Albrecht's sword, proving the Duke's true identity. Bathilde quickly reveals to Giselle that Albrecht is indeed her fiance. Knowing now that they can never be together, Giselle flies into a tragic fit of grief, causing her weak heart to give out at last. She dies in Albrecht's arms. The second act of the ballet takes place in a forest beside Giselle's grave. Hilarion mourns at Giselle's headstone, but is frightened away by the arrival of the Wilis, the spirits of women jilted by their lovers and who died before their weddings. The Wilis, led by their merciless queen, Myrtha, haunt the forest at night to seek revenge on any man they encounter, forcing their victims to dance until they die of exhaustion. Myrtha and the Wilis rouse Giselle's spirit from her grave and induct her into their clan. Albrecht arrives to lay flowers on Giselle's grave. Giselle's spirit appears, and Albrecht begs for her forgiveness. Giselle, her love undiminished, gently forgives him. Meanwhile, the Wilis have cornered Hilarion. They use their magic to force him to dance until he is dead and then they turn on Albrecht, sentencing him to death as well. However, the power of Giselle's love counters the Wilis' magic and spares his life. Giselle dances with him until the Wilis´ power is lost. Then she returns to her grave to rest in peace, leaving Albrecht sorrowing and alone.