Warning: spoilers follow.
After a long absence far from Saint-Petersburg, prince Myshkin returns to the country. He suffers from a form of idiocy which most visible demonstration is a deficiency of the will, but it gives others an unlimited confidence. The Myshkin family line is said to end at him and his cousin.
During his voyage, Myshkin meet Rogojin, an exuberant young man with whom he binds friendship. This one tells the prince about his passion for certain Nastassia Philippovna, a beautiful and generous woman, but one of bad reputation. He arrives at the house of General Epantchin, a possible distant-relative of his who is married to the only other member allive in the Myshkin line. Myshkin intends to speak about Nastassia and learns that Gania, young go-getter and secretary of the General, wants to marry her for her dowry. The prince feels the irresistible desire immediately to meet her.
One evening that he is at Nastassia, Myshkin sees arriving Rogojin, drunk, who proposes to the young woman a large amount of money so that she follows him. The prince perceives the despair of Nastassia and proposes to her to marry him in order to save her. This one, believing to detect pity in the gesture of the prince, flees with the commercial rich person. The two men, formerly bound by the friendship, become rival. Rogojin even tries to kill his friend. At the same time, Aglaya, youngest of the girls of the General, declares his love to Myshkin. The prince does not seem indifferent and one could even believe that he is in love. Nastassia does not favor his rival and then agrees to marry the prince, who gives up Aglaya in the intention saving Nastassia. But, the day of the marriage, Nastassia flees again with Rogojin. This one kills her. The novel ends on their lying together around the body of Nastassia: Myshkin, which finds Rogojin in tears, eventually sink in a total insanity.
By making of Myshkin a kind of ideal incarnation of kindness and humility, Dostoevsky shows what can happen to a man positively good in contact with reality.
Several film maker have been trying to film this great Russian novel, among them Akira Kurosawa
In 2003 Russian State Television has produced an outstanding 10 hours TV-series, which had very high ratings. Some critics say it is a good sign, for an ideal of a positively beuatiful person has found such a good acclaim from Russian public.