The action takes place between February 20, 1598 and April 13, 1605.
The Novodevichy Monastery
The death of Tsar Feodor loannovich has interrupted the dynasty of the Riurikovich. It is necessary to convoke an assembly of the lands and arrange "people's election" of the new Tsar. The people, impelled by the secretary of the Duma, Andrey Shcelkalov and urged by police officers, appeal to the boyar Boris Godunov asking him to ascend the Tsar's throne.
Festive toll accompanies Tsar Boris Feodorovich's coronation in the Cathedral of assumption. Shuisky tells the people and the boyars to glorify their new Tsar. Boris is being tortured by a tragic presentiment, in his thoughts he appeals to the passed away Tsar Feodor loannovich.
A Cell in the Monastery of Chudov
Nearby the Cathedral of Assumption, in the Kremlin monastery of Chudov, Pimen is keeping his secret chronicles - a denunciation of Tsar Boris. The Simpleton Grigory learns from Pimen the details of Tsarevich Dimitry's death, loann the Terrible's youngest son, murdered according to the Godunov's order in Uglich. In fact, on the day of Tsarevich's death Pimen has been sent to Uglich "for a certain novitiate". Pimen gives his blessings to Grigory for carrying on his deeds.
An Inn at the Lithuanian Border
Grigory escapes from Moscow, in order to gather troops in Lithuania and dethrone Boris under the name of Tsarevich Dimitry. Together with two vagabonds - the monks Varlaam and Missail - he appears in the inn near the border. Suddenly the police offices arrive to announce the Tsar's decree on a search and capture of the runaway. Grigory is saved by a miracle.
The Tsar's apartments in the Moscow Kremlin
Tsarevna Xenia mourns over her dead fiance, Korolevich Ivan, while Tsarevich Feodor is busy studying his father's kingdom. Boris is contemplating over the sixth years of his rule, when Prince Vassily Shuisky brings news about a pretender, who has appeared under the name of Tsarevich Dimitry in Lithuania. Boris again and again keeps asking Shuisky, who has been to Uglich investigating the circumstances of Tsarevich Dimitry's death, to confirm that Dimitry has been murdered without any doubt. Impressed by Shuisky's report Boris cannot get rid of the images of the Tsarevich's ghost.
The Mniszek's Castle in Sandormierz
Marina Mniszek, the daughter of a Polish Voyevoda, dreams of the Moscow Throne. Jesuit Rangoni incites her to an alliance with the pretender, to fulfill her dream. He arranges a rendezvous between Grigory and Marina. The Poles anticipate the prospects of Marina's accession to the throne. Rangoni estimates, how much power he could get into his hands when his two protégés become rulers.
The square in front of the St. Basil's Cathedral
The rumors about the Pretender's approach and a forthcoming downfall of Boris have been extended in Moscow. Leaving behind his troops, the Simpleton Grigory comes to Moscow unrecognized in order to meet Boris and remind him of the Dimitry's murder.
The Granovitaya Chamber in the Moscow Kremlin
Boyars are adopting a decree on the Pretender's capture and execution. Shuisky tells them about the Tsar's illness. Boris appears, his mind grasped by Dimitry's ghost. The Tsar tries to get back to reality - at the moment Shuisky ushers in Pimen, who tells a story of miracles, taking place on the Tsarevich's grave. Reminder of the murder courses a new attack on the Tsar. Boris dies, handing over his rule to his son Feodor.