Our story takes place in a small Rhineland village. The grape harvest is underway, and a bunch of people with ridiculous names are about to do some weird and confusing things. That’s what people did during the Middle Ages. Netflix hadn’t been invented yet.
Hilarion is a gamekeeper – that’s better than being a rat catcher but less cool than being a falconer. Hilarion is in love with Giselle. Giselle is a shy peasant girl who lists dancing, fairs, and hammer-throwing competitions among her interests. Hilarion has been skulking around Giselle’s cottage for weeks, leaving dead birds and bouquets on the doorstep, hoping she will one day agree to marry him. However, he’s getting the distinct impression that she’s not into him, and might, in fact, be into someone else. This is probably because in recent days Giselle has been prancing around the village with a new guy.
The new guy is Duke Albrecht of Silesia, who has a castle overlooking the village. One day, whilst slumming it, Albrecht spotted Giselle and fell hopelessly in love with her. But there were some… obstacles. First off, Albrecht was already engaged to Princess Bathilde of Courland. Second, his high social position would not permit marriage to country folk like Giselle.
So Albrecht hatches a brilliant plan. And by brilliant, I mean completely full of holes. (This is typical of almost all ballet plans.) Albrecht and his attendant, Wilfred, move into a cottage across from the crib Giselle shares with her mother. Albrecht figures he can keep his noble position secret if he disguises himself as a peasant farmer. He also adopts a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy regarding his impending marriage. Wilfred is feeling pretty uneasy about the situation, as even he can spot a bad ballet plan when he sees one.
Albrecht introduces himself to Giselle as Loys, but I’m just gunna keep calling him Albrecht so you don’t get confused. Albrecht was pretty hot, so it takes about ten seconds for Giselle to fall in love with him. On a positive note, she thought he was poor, so her feelings were obviously based solely on his looks, not his money. Adding to Albrecht’s appeal is the fact that he’s got some sweet moves on the dance floor and Giselle is mad crazy for dancing.
Albrecht’s moves have not gone unnoticed by Hilarion, who is wondering where the heck Albrecht came from. He is suspicious of the stranger who has turned up inexplicably in the village and believes Albrecht to be a masquerader. (Which is almost as bad as being a mime.)
So, on this particular autumn morning, the sun comes up and Albrecht starts flirting with Giselle again. Giselle is all: I am happy, trusting and full of love. NOTHING COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG.
This, of course, is foreshadowing. Absolutely everything could go wrong.