The story kicks off as Chremylos, a farmer, accompanied by his slave Carion, is following a foul smelling blind old man. Chremylos had just consulted Apollo’s oracle at Delphi about his only son’s upbringing: should he teach him to be honest and poor, or dishonest and prosperous? The oracle had mystifyingly replied that he should follow the first man he encountered and take him to his house. After much bullying and questioning, it turns out that the blind old man is the god Ploutos (Wealth) whom Zeus has struck blind so that he cannot discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving.
(It is not entirely clear in the play whether the distribution of wealth is indiscriminate or wilfully unjust)
Chremylos then has the brainwave of having Ploutos’s sight restored at the shrine of Asclepios, the healer. This occasions a visit from the irate Poverty, who vainly pleads the cause of frugality and hardihood.
Ploutos’ miraculous cure creates a wave of prosperity in which the just are rewarded while sycophants/informers find themselves unemployed, gigolos leave their ugly old mistresses and the god Hermes and priests defect from Zeus’s service to follow the new god. This is shown in a number of short scenes in which each character—a just man, a sycophant, an old woman, a gigolo, Hermes and a priest enter and leave in quick succession. In the end, even Zeus himself (who does not appear in person) follows suit and the play’s finale consists of a procession in which everyone participates with the exception of Poverty and the sycophant.