Three prisoners are locked up in the same cell. Green-Eyes (Yeux-Verts) has killed a woman and is to be guillotined. Maurice and Lefranc are sentenced for more minor crimes. Maurice has a deep attachment to Green-Eyes, as does Lefranc, but secretly. He also hates Maurice, while feigning to hate Green-Eyes, preferring him to Snowball (Boule-de-Neige). Snowball himself is also condemned to death (his presence in the play is only evoked, not actual) and along with Green-Eyes they are considered the Kings of the prison. In fact their sentence traps them in a solitude and an immense unhappiness which lends them a certain dignity. Lefranc who is constantly in conflict with Maurice––especially because of Green-Eyes's woman that both of them desire––ends up strangling him so as to join Green-Eyes in his solitude and dejection.