Prologue, Tevye explains the role of God's law in providing balance in
the villagers' lives. He describes the inner circle of the community and
the larger circle which includes the constable, the priest, and
countless other authority figures. He explains, "We don't bother them
and so far, they don't bother us." He ends by insisting that without
their traditions, he and the other villagers would find their lives "as
shaky as a fiddler on the roof."
Tevye's daughters, Tzeitel, Hodel, and Chava, wonder if the matchmaker
will ever find them the men of their dreams. The matchmaker, Yente,
tells Golde that she has selected the butcher Lazar Wolfe as a match for
of villagers, including an outsider, Perchik, approach Tevye with news
of a violent pogrom in a nearby village. Tevye invites Perchik, a young
revolutionary student, to come to his home for Sabbath dinner and
arranges for him to instruct his daughters.
tailor attempts to ask Tevye for Tzeitel's hand, but gets tongue-tied.
The family and their guests welcome the Sabbath. Tevye goes to
meet Lazar Wolfe, the butcher, and agrees to the match with Tzeitel. A
boisterous celebration ensues involving the villagers and the Russians
who also congregate in the tavern.
staggers home, he meets the Constable, who warns him that a
demonstration is going to be planned against the Jews of Anatevka. In
his inebriation, Tevye conjures The Fiddler, who plays his violin as
Tevye dances his way home. Tevye appears and tells Tzeitel about
her engagement to Lazar Wolfe. Golde rejoices, but after she leaves,
Motel tells Tevye that he and Tzeitel gave each other a pledge to marry.
After a struggle with himself, Tevye agrees to their marriage. He leaves
and Motel and Tzeitel rejoice.
to manufacture a wild nightmare to convince Golde that the match with
Lazar will result in Tzeitel's death at the hands of the butcher's first
wife, Fruma-Sarah. Golde is so horrified that she insists on a marriage
between Tzeitel and Motel.
are gossiping in the street about the mix-up in Tzeitel's wedding plans.
As Chava enters Motel's tailor shop, a group of Russians on the street
taunt her. Fyedka, a Russian youth, insists that they stop. After they
leave, Fyedka follows Chava into the shop. He tries to speak with her,
but leaves quickly when Motel enters.
lead us to the wedding. The company sings as the traditional Jewish
ceremony takes place. To the villagers' dismay, Perchik asks Hodel to
dance with him and she accepts, performing the forbidden act of dancing
with a man. Everyone else follows suit. As the dance reaches a wild high
point, the Constable and his men enter. They destroy everything in
sight. Perchik grapples with a Russian and is hit with a club. The
constable bows to Tevye and says " I am genuinely sorry. You
understand?" Tevye replies with mock courtesy, "Of course." The family
begins to clean up after the destruction.
with God about recent events. Perchik tells Hodel that he is leaving to
work for justice in Kiev. He proposes to her and she accepts. He
promises to send for her as soon as he can. Tevye approves in spite of
his misgivings. After they leave, he asks Golde if she thinks their own
arranged marriage has somehow also turned into a romance.
On a village
street, Yente tells Tzeitel she has seen Chava with Fyedka. The news
Yente has gleaned from a letter from Perchik becomes gossip for the
villagers, who turn it into a song that totally distorts the truth.
Hodel to the railroad station. She is going to Siberia where Perchik has
been sent after his arrest. The villagers are once again gossiping
about a new arrival at Motel and Tzeitel's. At Motel's shop, we
learn that the new arrival is a sewing machine. Fyedka and Chava speak
outside the shop. She promises to speak to Tevye about their love for
each other. Tevye appears and Chava tries to talk to him about Fyedka.
Tevye refuses to listen to her and forbids her to ever to speak to him
about Fyedka again.
home to learn from Golde that Chava and Fydeka have been married by the
priest. Tevye says that Chava is dead to them. When Chava appears to ask
his acceptance, he cannot allow himself to answer her plea. Yente
is trying to fix up Tevye's remaining daughters with two boys as future
brings the news that everyone in the town has to sell their houses and
household goods and leave Anatevka in three days. As the villagers think
of their future, they sing fondly of the village they are leaving.
The family is packing the wagon to leave. Tzeitel and Motel are staying
in Warsaw until they have enough money to go to America. Hodel and
Perchik are still in Siberia. Chava appears with Fyedka. Tevye refuses
to acknowledge her. Chava explains that they are also leaving because
they cannot stay among people who can do such things to others. They are
going to Cracow. Tzeitel says goodbye to them and Tevye prompts Tzeitel
to add, "God be with you!" Chava promises Golde she will write to her in
America. Chava and Fyedka leave. Final goodbyes are said and Tevye
begins pulling the wagon. Other villagers join the circle, including The
Fiddler. Tevye beckons to the The Fiddler to follow him. The Fiddler
tucks his fiddle under his arm and follows the group as the curtain