In the fictional town of Middlemarch, selflessness, social reform, and romantic love struggle to survive against human foolishness, economic missteps, and societal ideals. Young and intelligent, Dorothea Brooke hastily marries Casaubon, a middle-aged scholar working tirelessly on his "masterpiece," The Key to All Mythologies. Their union soon sours, and Dorothea becomes trapped in a difficult situation that worsens upon the death of her husband. Elsewhere in town, Tertius Lydgate, an idealistic young doctor, is caught in an ill-fated union with the sweet but superficial Rosamund Vincy. Intertwined within the lives of these two unfortunate couples is the handsome artist Will Ladislaw, who is sympathetic to Lydgate's ideas about science and medicine, and who develops feelings for his uncle's wife--Dorthea Brooke.