Sir Peter Teazle, a middle-aged, wealthy bachelor, has recently married a pretty maid from the country. Suddenly thrust into London's high society, the young and frivolous Lady Teazle finds herself a willing member of a vicious, scandal-mongering cabal that spends its time maligning friend, foe and family alike. The leader of this group is Lady Sneerwell who is in love with the young, romantic, profligate Charles Surface and is trying to come between him and Maria, Sir Peter's ward. Joseph Surface, Charles' villainous older brother, has his own plans for Maria, or rather for her fortune, and joins Lady Sneerwell in her campaign of slander and deception to achieve his own aims. Sir Oliver Surface, Charles' and Joseph's wealthy uncle whom they have not seen since they were small children, suddenly arrives from India and devises a test to determine their true moral character. Joseph Surface lures Lady Teazle to his rooms and is on the verge of seducing her when the arrival of Sir Peter interrupts them, forcing Lady Teazle to hide behind a screen. Charles is announced and Sir Peter, suspecting him of having an affair with his wife, starts to hide behind the screen, as well. Joseph restrains him, telling him a French dressmaker, with whom he is having a tryst, is hiding there. Joseph is momentarily called away and Sir Peter tells Charles about the little "bon-bon" behind the screen. Charles decides to have a look. The screen crashes to the floor, revealing Lady Teazle who confesses to Sir Peter and begs for his forgiveness. Joseph and Lady Sneerwell are exposed. Charles and Maria are reunited. Sir Peter and Lady Teazle are reconciled and happy at last. Truth, love and virtue triumph. All ends well.