The play opens in Naples, where two Spanish sisters Helena and Florinda, discuss love. While their father is away, they are under the watchful eye of their brother, Don Pedro. The ladylike Florinda is in love with the noble but impoverished British cavalier Belvile while witty Hellena is supposed to become a nun, but longs for love. Don Pedro enters and announces that their father wishes Florinda to marry the elderly, wealthy Don Vincentio; he, however, wants his sister to marry his friend Don Antonio. Hellena attempts to argue. Meanwhile, Pedro orders the girls’ governess, Callis, to keep Hellena from the Carnival. The girls scheme to escape, accompanied by their cousin Valeria.
On a street in Naples, Belvile enters, melancholy with love for Florinda. His friends, Ned Blunt and Frederick, tease him. The three of them encounter Willmore, the Rover for whom the play is named; he is overjoyed to see Frederick and Belvile, and the two introduce him to Blunt. The four Englishmen watch and marvel at a group of revelers at the Carnival.
Florinda, Hellena, and Valeria, disguised as gypsies, enter with Callis and Stephano, accompanied by a group of revelers including Lucetta and Sancho. Florinda recognizes Belvile, while Hellena notices Willmore. She tells his fortune, and their exchange becomes flirtatious. Meanwhile, Lucetta, a prostitute, plots with her pimp Sancho to rob the wealthy Blunt. Florinda cannot reveal herself to Belvile because of Callis; when she finally does, Don Pedro enters and she flees. Once she leaves, Belvile begs his friends to help rescue her, while Blunt leaves with Lucetta. Willmore asks if there are more willing women in Naples, and his friends tell him of Angelica, a beautiful prostitute who charges a thousand crowns per month.
The group reenters later in the day, intending to seek out Angelica. They encounter Blunt, who believes himself in love with Lucetta. While they mock him, servants enter and place pictures of Angelica around the stage, so that all can observe her beauty. Don Pedro enters, sees the pictures, and resolves to pay Angelica’s thousand-crown price. Angelica herself appears with her servant Moretta. Don Antonio, also masked, enters and decides to purchase Angelica despite his betrothal to Florinda. Hearing his sister’s name, Pedro is upset—his friend is his rival for Angelica’s affections, and does not care for his sister. The two men duel; the Englishmen part them, but the Spaniards resolve to fight the next day at a public square, the Molo. Pedro declares that they are fighting not for Angelica, but for Florinda, and exits.
Willmore pulls down a picture of Angelica. Antonio, believing that the cavalier is insulting the courtesan, draws his sword and the two fight. Antonio’s comrades join in, as do Willmore’s, and the Englishmen beat the Spaniards. Angelica, displeased at having lost a potential customer, commands Willmore to come up and face her in person.
Inside the house, Willmore scolds Angelica for putting a price on love, and the two begin to flirt. After miscommunications and jibes, Angelica and Willmore admit that they have feelings for each other, and Angelica tells the cavalier that the only payment she wants is the exchange of his heart for hers; he agrees, and they rush to Angelica’s bedchamber.
Florinda, Valeria, and Hellena, still masked, enter the same street so that Hellena can meet Willmore. Valeria, meanwhile, reveals that she fancies the English stranger (Frederick) whom she met earlier. The Englishmen enter without Willmore, and the girls hide. The men worry about Willmore’s fate; Hellena grows curious. Willmore enters triumphantly, revealing that Angelica has given him a great deal of money.
Belvile reminds Willmore of the gypsy girl he had liked earlier (Hellena in disguise), but the Rover protests that he does not want to think of any other woman. Yet when Hellena emerges in her gypsy disguise, he immediately begins flirting with her again. Angelica enters with her bravoes and, seeing the couple, responds jealously. Meanwhile, Hellena takes off her mask, and Willmore is struck by her beauty. Angelica orders one of her servants to follow Hellena and discover her identity. Simultaneously, Frederick courts Valeria, while Florinda attempt to discern whether or not Belvile is faithful to her by tempting him with jewels. As the ladies leave, Florinda gives Belvile a jewel although he has refused to take it. She exits, and he discovers that it contains her picture, realizing that he has been talking to his beloved. He decides to rescue her later that evening.
Blunt enters Lucetta’s home, and the two prepare to sleep together; Blunt undresses and takes off his fine clothing and jewels. When he enters Lucetta’s chamber, she uses the darkness to slip out and open a trapdoor, through which Blunt falls. With the help of Sancho, and her lover Philippo, Lucetta steals his belongings and exit. Blunt enters, dirty, unclothed, and cursing not only Lucetta, but all women. He exits, still enraged.
Later that evening, Florinda enters her family’s garden in her nightgown and unlocks the door for Belvile. Willmore sneaks in, masked, drunk and belligerent. She struggles as he attempts to assault her. Belvile and Frederick enter, also masked, and pull Willmore off of Florinda—enraged, he draws his sword. Drawn to the commotion, Don Pedro enters with his guards, Florinda flees, and the Spaniards force the Englishmen out.
Belvile confronts Willmore, telling him that he has nearly raped Florinda and demanding a duel; Willmore refuses. Belvile grows despairing, remembering that Florinda will marry Don Antonio tomorrow. As they talk, they reach Angelica’s house, and Willmore makes to enter it. Before he can, however, Antonio enters, announcing that he has paid Angelica’s fee. Willmore, enraged, draws his sword, challenges Antonio to a duel, and wounds the Spaniard. Assuming that he has killed Antonio, the cavalier staggers away. A group of soldiers enters, believing that Belvile has hurt the Spanish nobleman. Antonio orders them to take Belvile to his house, mistaking him not only for Willmore, but also for Pedro (with whom he had dueled previously).
Belvile, imprisoned in Antonio’s house, is surprised when the Spaniard gives him a sword. Antonio wishes the Englishmen to fight in his place in his duel against Pedro (since he is wounded). Belvile realizes that he is speaking to Antonio—his rival for Florinda’s hand—and reacts with dismay. As Antonio explains that the duel is over Florinda, Belvile becomes even more upset, believing that Florinda has another suitor. The two agree that Belvile will duel disguised as Antonio.
A masked Florinda arrives at the Molo to watch the fight. Stephano reveals that the duel is for her honor and she becomes upset, believing that Pedro is fighting against Belvile. When Pedro enters, he remarks that Antonio is late, and Florinda is relieved. Belvile enters, dressed as Antonio, and Pedro berates him both for insulting Florinda and finding favor with Angelica. The duel proceeds. Fearful for her brother’s life, Florinda intercedes, begging Belvile to stop in the name of his love; he does so immediately. Pedro believes that this is a sign of “Antonio’s” love for Florinda, and gives his now unmasked sister to his opponent. Florinda is dismayed at the prospect of marrying Antonio, but Belvile reveals himself to her. Disastrously, Willmore and Frederick enter, calling out Belvile’s name. Pedro realizes his mistake and takes his sister back.
As they exit, Belvile draws his sword on Willmore, who runs away just as Angelica enters with her servants. She reveals that she knows Hellena’s identity as a noblewoman. When Sebastian reenters with Willmore, she berates him, accusing him of courting Hellena for money. Willmore is thrilled that his gypsy girl is actually wealthy, and plots to leave. Hellena enters dressed as a pageboy, and tells Angelica that she comes from a noblewoman who loves Willmore. The cavalier grows intrigued, believing that a third woman adores him. While Angelica grieves, he begs Hellena to reveal more about her mistress. She refuses and, realizing that she is his gypsy girl, Willmore resolves to torment her. Angelica commands him to remain faithful, and though he scoffs at the idea that she is jealous of a gypsy girl (thus torturing Hellena), he refuses; enraged, she sends him away. Hellena also exits, and Willmore vows to find her. Angelica vows revenge.
Florinda and Valeria have escaped from Don Pedro, and are attempting to find the Englishmen. Valeria reveals that she has contacted Belvile, and that he will stall Pedro. Seeing both men (along with Wilmore), the women put on their masks. Willmore begins to harass Florinda and she exits. Frederick enters and tells the group about Blunt’s escapades; Belvile offers to show Pedro his hapless companion. Florinda reenters, and hides in a house (coincidentally Belvile’s lodgings), only to encounter Blunt. Enraged against women, he attempts to rape her, and asks Frederick to help. The two pause when she offers them a jewel to prove her wealth, and mentions Belvile’s name. They resolve to lock her up until they can discern whether she is truthful.
Blunt hides in his room as his friends and Pedro besiege the door, finally breaking it down. As they tease him, he reveals that he has taken a woman prisoner, showing off her jewel, which Belvile recognizes. He attempts to extricate Florinda without alerting Pedro, but cannot. The men resolve to draw their swords, deciding that whoever carries the longest sword will determine whether Florinda is noble. Pedro proves to have the longest sword, and ends up threatening his own sister. At this point, Valeria enters, distracting Pedro by telling him that Florinda has escaped. Relieved, Belvile and Florinda resolve to marry, as the other men beg forgiveness. She grants it, and Frederick and Valeria decide to marry each other as well. A page enters with a convenient priest, and the four leave to be married, with Willmore remaining behind to guard the house.
Blunt exits to meet his tailor, and Angelica enters, masked. Willmore believes her to be the gypsy girl, but quickly realizes his mistake when she unmasks and threatens him with a pistol, calling him a traitor. She expresses her pain at his abandonment, asserting that she must kill him for all womankind. Antonio enters and offers to kill Willmore for Angelica, while Pedro enters and hides. Angelica decides to show contempt for Willmore by letting him live. She exits, and Pedro confronts Antonio, accusing him of not caring for Florinda. Antonio exits angrily and Pedro questions whether he should give Florinda to Belvile. Willmore informs him that the deed is done and threatens Pedro, saying that he will kidnap the Spaniard if he does not bless Florinda’s marriage.
Belvile reenters and Don Pedro congratulates him; the two exit to tell Florinda the happy news as Hellena enters, disguised again in boys’ clothes. When Hellena still refuses to go to bed with him, Willmore agrees to marry her; the two at last tell each other their names. The two married couples enter, along with Pedro, who is dismayed by but resigned to Hellena’s union with Willmore. Blunt enters in Spanish clothing, looking ridiculous, as do a group of revelers. As the other couples dance, Hellena and Willmore admit that they are frightened to marry each other, but resolve to do so anyway.