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Prince Myshkin and Rogozin meet in the train going from Warsaw to St. Petersburg. Myshkin has just returned from Switzerland and is going to St. Petersburg to meet people. Rogozin is returning back to his home after his father’s demise. As Myshkin relates his experience as a patient in Switzerland, Rogozin talks about his days of youth in St. Petersburg and his meeting with Nastasya Philippovna.
Getting down from the train, Myshkin heads towards the house of Yepanchins, as Madam Yepanchin is distantly related to him. At first, General Yepanchin is cautious in his approach towards Myshkin but after talking to the youth and observing his talent in calligraphy, he decides to employ him. He asks Gavrila Ardalionovich to provide lodgings to the Prince. He also introduces Myshkin to his family.
Madam Yepanchin and her three daughters take a liking to the Prince and offer him lunch. Aglaya, the youngest daughter of the Yepanchins, takes Prince into her confidence and shows him the letter written to her by Ganya. She becomes aware of the mercenary nature of Ganya and thus, rejects his proposal.
The Prince accompanies Ganya to his house. Ganya’s family members are against his marrying Nastasya, as she is a lady of disrepute. As they confront Ganya on the subject, Nastasya makes her appearance and shocks them. She acts arrogant and insults both Nina Alexandrovna and Varya. In retaliation, Varya abuses Nastasya. As Ganya raises his hand to slap his sister, the Prince intervenes. Myshkin accuses Nastasya of behaving contrary to her true nature. At this moment, Rogozin and his friends step into the house. Rogozin offers to buy Nastasya from Ganya for ten thousand rubles. Nastasya is amused but leaves for her house.
Nastasya welcomes him and apologizes for her lapse in inviting him to her party. After dinner and games, she decides to announce her decision to marry Ganya. However, before doing so, she turns to Myshkin to ask his advice on the matter. The Prince asks her not to accept Ganya’s hand. Nastasya echoes the wishes of the Prince. Ganya is hurt and disappointed. Nastasya expresses a desire to marry only that man who loves her for herself and not for her money. The Prince declares his love for her and offers to marry her. Nastasya accepts his offer. The Prince, then, reveals about the wealth that he is going to inherit. Ptitsyn confirms about his inheritance. At that moment, Rogozin arrives and gives ten thousand rubles to Nastasya. Nastaisa agrees to marry the Rogozin instead of the Prince because she does not want to ruin Myshkin’s life. As she leaves with Rogozin, others too take their leave.
The Prince leaves for Moscow to settle matters of his legacy. No one is sure of his movements thereafter. Rumors are heard that Nastasya had deserted Rogozin and had gone to live with Myshkin. Later, she had returned to Rogozin. Lizaveta Prokofyevna is upset about the Prince leaving for Moscow without informing them. She tries to get information about him from Princess Byelokonsky. The Princess informs that she is impressed with the Prince who visits her often.
Adelaida, the second daughter of the Yepanchins, gets engaged to a smart young man called Prince S, who is endowed with wealth and position in life. An eligible bachelor called Yevgeni Pavlovich woos Aglaya. Only Alexandra is unattached. Lizaveta Prokofyevna is concerned about her daughters. She and her family decide to shift residence to Pavlovsk where they own a cottage.
Prince Myshkin returns to St. Petersburg and visits Lebedyev to seek information about Nastasya and Rogozhin. Later, he meets Rogozhin and assures him of his friendship. However, he is tempted to visit Nastasya. As he goes to meet her, he suspects Rogozhin of following him. Unable to meet her and the Yepanchins, he returns back to his hotel. As he climbs up the stairs, he comes face to face with Rogozhin. Before the jealous Rogozhin can wound him with a knife, the Prince falls down after a fit of epilepsy. Kolya takes him home to Labedyev. Shortly afterwards, they all leave for Pavlovsk.