The ballet is based on an ancient legend about 'villisses', brides, who die before their weddings. According to legend, villisses arise from their graves at midnight and dance as though they were trying to revive their maidenly dances and games that were so brutally interrupted by death. Any wayfarer who comes upon them while they are dancing are drawn into their wild group dances until they are so exhausted they fall dead at the end of the evening. This procedure is based upon the vindictive feelings, villisses have due to their own untimely deaths.
Opens in a happy, small, quiet village. Plain and simple people live there. Giselle, a young peasant maiden, delights in the sun, blue chirping birds, and above all happiness in a crystal pure love that brightens her life. She loves and believes that she is loved. There is a forester who also loves Giselle and tries to convince her that Albert, her chosen one, is not a simple peasant, but a disguised nobleman who is deceiving her.
This forester steals into Albert's house that he is renting in the village and finds a silver sword with embossed with a coat of arms. Now he is completely convinced that Albert is hiding his noble origin. He takes advantage of an opportunity to expose Albert when a group of/nobles arrive that are hunting nearby. The forester shows them Albert's sword and exposes his deceit. Giselle is shunned by her beloved's craftiness. Her pure and bright world collapses along with her faith, hopes and dreams and she dies of grief.
Shadowy villisses appear in the moonlight between the graveyard tombs of the village cemetery. Dressed in their wedding owns, crowned with flowers, villisses dance irresistibly beautifully in the moonlight. Their dancing increases in passion and speed as they feel that the hour given them for dancing is coming to an end. Soon they must descend into their ice-cold graves once again...
The villisses notice the forester. Tortured by pangs of conscience, he has come to Giselle's grave. By order of Mirta, the implacable Queen of Villisses, they spin him in a ghostly dance until he drops lifelessly to the ground.
But Albert too cannot forget Giselle. In the dead of night he also comes to her grave. The villisses immediately surround the youth. The terrible lot of the forester now threatens Albert. But Giselle's ghost appears and her undying, selfless love protects Albert and saves him from the anger of the villisses...
With the first rays of rising sun, the white ghosts - the villisses - disappear. The light ghost of Giselle also vanishes but Gisselle will always live in Albert's memory as his eternal sorrow for his lost love forms a bond stronger than death.