The Muslim princess Armide, recently victorious over a band of crusaders, is obsessed with the Christian knight Renaud. Armide’s uncle, the sorcerer Hidraot, encourages her to choose a husband. Armide declares she will only consider marriage to a warrior capable of destroying Renaud. As the people of Damascus celebrate Armide’s triumph, they are interrupted by Aronte. Mortally wounded, he announces that the captive crusaders have been rescued by Renaud.
Renaud, alone in the desert, is warned by Artémidore that he is near Armide’s territory. Renaud assures Artémidore that his heart is safe from Armide’s allure and sends him away. Armide and Hidraot enter and transform the desert into a beautiful oasis meant to ravish Renaud’s senses; he is lulled into a magical sleep. Armide prepares to kill the sleeping Renaud; however, it is her senses that are ravished by the beautiful young knight. Armide convinces herself that her greatest triumph would be to not to kill Renaud, but to take him as a lover.
In the desert, Armide grapples with the realization that she has fallen in love with Renaud, while he is bound to her only by her magic spells. In desperation, Armide conjures the spirit of Hatred who, with his attendants, performs a satanic liturgy in which Love is tormented. At the last moment Armide is unable to go through with the exorcism and attempts to banish Hatred. Furious, Hatred proclaims that Armide will be humiliated and abandoned by Renaud.
At Armide’s palace, she and Renaud make mutual declarations of passion; she leaves him to consult the Underworld about her predicament. Two knights, on a quest to find and rescue Renaud, appear in Armide’s absence and break her spell over Renaud. Armide returns as Renaud prepares to escape and implores him to stay or to take her with him as a captive. The call of duty overwhelms Renaud and he abandons Armide who, in her despair, collapses. While she is unconscious, Renaud, overcome with grief, explains that although the spell has been broken, he does indeed still love her. Armide awakens, never having heard Renaud’s declaration. The curse of the spirit of Hatred proves to be true. In an agony of torment Armide destroys the palace, the desert and everything within her grasp. The only thing she cannot destroy is her love for Renaud.