This play is set in Auxerre, France, in 1348 in the midst of the Black Plague. The main character is Marcel Flote, a wandering monk who after an inadvertently humorous run-in with a flagellant discovers what God has called him for - laughter in the face of plague, "bright stars not sad comets, red noses not black death. He wants joy." Flote then sets forth with a troupe of clowns (a new order without order) to make merriment against all odds. Although initially supported by the Church in this endeavor (for its own gain), the Church in the end (not surprisingly) turns against Father Flote and his anti-establishment followers.