When Rodolfo, a penniless poet, meets Mimì, a seamstress, they fall passionately in love. But their happiness is threatened when Rodolfo learns that Mimì is gravely ill.
Rodolfo, painfully aware that he cannot afford the medicine and care Mimì needs, separates from her. At the end of her life Mimì returns to Rodolfo's garret. They ecstatically embrace – but, despite the care of Rodolfo and his friends, Mimì dies.