The widowed Larina sits together with Filipyevna in the garden of her summer house. Her daughters, Olga and Tatyana, sing a love song that reminds the older women of days gone by. Villagers bring presents and celebrate the completion of the harvest with songs and dances. Olga taunts Tatyana for failing to enjoy the festivities. Tatyana remains pensive and apart, wrapped in the fantasy of her novels. As the villagers leave, the poet Lensky, Olga's suitor, and his worldy friend Yevgeny Onegin arrive. The four young people mingle, awkwardly at first. Lensky pours forth his love to Olga. Onegin, strolling with Tatyana, asks if she does not tire of her bucolic existence. Visibly upset by the stranger, she answers with difficulty. As night falls, the two couples go in for dinner.
In her bedroom, Tatyana persuades Filipyevna to speak of her first love and marriage. Filipyevna notices that the girl's mind is wandering and asks if she is ill. Tatyana declares she is in love and begs to be left alone. Resolved to reveal her passion to Onegin, Tatyana sits up the entire night and writes to him, full of fear and shame. She closes by pleading for his understanding. When day breaks, she gives the letter to Filippyevna to deliver.
Tatiana regrets that she confessed her feelings in the letter. Onegin arrives and admits he was touched by her letter but adds he would tire quickly of marriage. Though she has all the virtues he might wish in a wife, the most he can offer is a brother's love. He advises more emotional control, lest another man fail to respect her innocence. Crushed, Tatyana rushes away.
Some months later, a party is under way in honor of Tatyana's name day. Onegin dances with Tatyana but clearly is bored with these country people and their provincial sensibilities. To get back at Lensky for dragging him there, he dances with Olga, who is attracted momentarily and responds to his advances. Onegin's game is interrupted by Triquet, an elderly French tutor, who serenades Tatyana with a song he has written in her honor. When dancing resumes, Lensky jealously confronts Onegin. The merrymaking stops. Larina implores them not to quarrel in her house; Lensky is remorseful but cannot contain his rage at Onegin, who accepts his challenge to a duel.
At dawn, Lensky and his second, Zaretsky, await Onegin. Reflecting on the folly of his brief life, and saddened by its now unalterable course, the young poet imagines his beloved Olga visiting his grave. Onegin arrives with his second. The two men realize that they have acted rashly, that they would rather laugh together than fight, but pride and impulsiveness prevail. Lensky dies.
Several years later. Onegin has traveled widely, seeking to alleviate his boredom and give his life meaning. Attending a monotonous social event, he recognizes Tatyana across the room, but she is no longer the girl he knew: she walks with poise and dignity. Questioning his cousin, Prince Gremin, he learns that Tatyana is now Gremin's wife. The older man tells of his marriage two years earlier and describes Tatyana as his life's salvation. When Gremin introduces Onegin, Tatyana maintains her composure, excusing herself after a few words of polite conversation. Captivated, Onegin dashes away.
Tatyana receives Onegin in answer to an impassioned letter he has written. She remains controlled. Now that she has a rich and noble husband, she asks, does he desire her position or her shame? She recalls the days when they might have been happy; now he can bring her only grief. As Onegin's pleas grow more ardent Tatyana prays for courage. Suddenly finding strength, she rushes out, leaving the distraught Onegin behind.