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Michael Henchard sells his wife to a sailor at a country fair, while drunk. As the years pass, he prospers and becomes mayor of the town. Then his wife and daughter come to live in the town....
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Henchard is now Mayor of Casterbridge. When his wife returns, eighteen years after he sold her, he decides they must remarry.
The jealous Henchard has sacked Donald Farfrae and forbidden him to see Elizabeth-Jane. When his wife Susan dies it is just the start of his troubles.
Elizabeth-Jane is now working for Lucetta, who, having been the subject of Henchard's attentions, is now interested in Farfrae. The furious Henchard plans to ruin his rival...
Henchard's secret is out. Denounced as a wife-seller and with his business in trouble his discovery that Lucetta has married Farfrae completes his humiliation.
Farfrae becomes Mayor of Casterbridge. Lucetta, afraid that Henchard will expose her, asks him to return her love letters.
Lucetta has died, the victim of an evil trick. Henchard's conciliation with Elizabeth is short-lived: when her father comes to claim her Henchard pretends she is dead.
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