On St. Helena, the exiled emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is grim when his faithful Corscian attendant Cipriani dies. In his confinement he's suffering from a bad liver and a sulking mistress all this begins to weigh heavy on him as he continues to be haunted by spectres of his mistakes. He cannot forget, he says, that if he had not attacked so soon at Waterloo, he would have had 12,000 more men. The imperial manners gradually give way to those of a lonely and embittered country squire. Feeling death upon him at last, he hears that a comet has appeared in the sky.