In a moment of youthful indiscretion, Sir Robert Chiltern provided an Austrian baron with secret Foreign Office information. As payment he received the money that became the basis of his fortune and of his splendid, otherwise unimpeachable government career. Years later, he is blackmailed by a mysterious woman who also happens to be an acquaintance of his wife. Seeking the advice of his best friend, Sir Chiltern is told to confess everything to his wife and seek her support, but he refuses to tarnish the ideal image he believes his wife has of him and their marriage. His refusal to tell his wife has severe consequences as she becomes as much of threat to his position as the blackmailer.