Giselle, a peasant girl, is in love with a young peasant called Loys. She is loved by a gamekeeper, who is very jealous on seeing her prefer his rival. In her happiness she dances, in spite of the advice and forebodings of her mother, who reminds her of the legend of the Willis.

The Willis are lovers who died the day before their wedding. They could not sleep in peace in their tombs. A too great love of dancing will not let them rest even after death: every night they get up and have to dance until dawn – and woe be to any one who passes near to their accursed haunts. But Giselle refuses to believe in her mother’s presentiments.

The vintage festival must be celebrated. Giselle learns that the man she loves is none other than the nobleman Albrecht, disguised as a peasant to deceive her, and that he is about to marry Bathilde, daughter of a Duke of Courland.

It is the gamekeeper who reveals this, and she soon finds that it is true. Albrecht, furious, wishes to kill the gamekeeper, but is prevented; and Giselle, in despair, becomes mad and dies.


Some huntsmen arrive seeking a suitable halt, but gamekeeper tells them that the Wilis dance their nightly round here. Midnight strikes. Terrorstricken they flee.

The Willis appear, led by their Queen; among them is Giselle. The first person to appear is the Prince, who has come to pray at the tomb of Giselle. She appears to him, still beloved though a spectre, but she escapes from his embrace, flies round him, and takes him through the paths of the lake.

The gamekeeper, whom the Wilis have made dance until he dies, appears. Then the Wilis discover the Count. They wish to make him dance. Giselle begs them to spare him. The Wilis refuse; the Count is lost. But the morning clock breaks the spell; the Count is saved. The Wilis disappear. The Duke of Courland and Bathilde appear. Giselle seems to tell Albrecht to bestow his love on Bathilde. Then, she vanishes amid the flowering grass.*

* Reproduced from the Ballets Russes program, 1911, with needed corrections and additions made.