When Rodolfo, a penniless poet, meets Mimž, a seamstress, they fall instantly in love. But their happiness is threatened when Rodolfo learns that Mimž is gravely ill.
Rodolfo is painfully aware that he cannot afford the medicine and care Mimž needs, and so separates from her. As her sickness takes hold Mimž returns to Rodolfo's garret. They are joyfully reunited - but, despite the care of Rodolfo and his friends, Mimž dies.