In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the leading character observes The play's the thing, wherein to catch the conscience of the king. In this Yugoslavian movie, a performance of Hamlet in a small village apparently catches the conscience of the whole town.
The village commissar, who knows nothing of the play, insists on mounting a production of Hamlet over the objections of the village teacher, who knows the tale well. Thinking only of the prestige it will bring, the commissar plans to use local villagers in the parts.
The son of a man the commissar had framed for theft gets the part of Hamlet, and the commissar plays the usurping king. During a fight scene, the boy Hamlet, manages to wrest a confession to the thefts from the town treasurer, but when he hears of his father's suicide, he promptly stabs the commissar.
The commissar, bleeding, orders the post-performance dance to go on.