The ship of the Norwegian merchant Daland has gotten caught in a serious storm just before reaching the homeport, and thus drops anchor in a nearby cove. They decide to wait out the storm and sleep for the night, while only the steersman keeps watch. But he, too, falls asleep. In the meantime, a second ship approaches, that of the Flying Dutchman. The Dutchman asks for the hand of Daland’s daughter Senta. Daland, impressed by the riches of the Dutchman, agrees.
Back home, the busy women await the arrival of their husbands. Senta asks Mary to tell her of the Flying Dutchman. Erik, Senta’s betrothed, arrives and reports of the arrival of the ship. Erik urges Senta to ask the father to approve of their marriage. Senta refuses. As a warning, Erik tells her of his dream, where he saw Senta and a mysterious seaman sink together in the ocean. The father then introduces a stranger to Senta, whom she is to marry.
The seamen prepare for the wedding. Erik reminds Senta of their former intimacy and love, and that she once swore to him her constancy, but Senta vigorously denies this. The Dutchman is a witness to this conversation, and no longer believes Senta’s oath of constancy to him. Without giving her a chance to explain, the Dutchman turns to leave. Senta follows him to her death.