The play opens with the Narrator finding an old book, picking it up, blowing off the dust, and starting to read. The story she relates is of a young dreamer, a man named Joseph—the same Joseph whose story is told in the Book of Genesis.
Joseph, as you may remember, was born into a family of twelve boys, all the sons of Jacob. Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son, and, to show everyone that he is pleased with him, Jacob gives Joseph a splendid multi-colored coat. However, this coat, along with Joseph’s talk of dreams he has had showing he will be the ruler of his brothers, arouse the jealousy of the other eleven. They decide to kill him, but before they get the chance, they meet up with the group of Ishmaelites traveling to Egypt. A plan is hatched, and they sell their brother as a slave instead.
So Joseph is taken off to Egypt, and his brothers return to tell their father that his favorite son is dead, producing his wonderful coat—which they have stained with the blood of a goat—as proof.
Potiphar, a powerful man in Egypt, takes Joseph into his household as a slave. While there Joseph works so hard and is so honest, that Potiphar begins to admire him greatly. Unfortunately, he also catches the eye of his master’s wife, who tries to seduce him. When Potiphar catches them together, he assumes the worst (even though Joseph is innocent) and sends Joseph to prison. While there Joseph meets two of Pharaoh’s servants, a butler and a baker, both of whom have had strange dreams. Joseph interprets their dreams, correctly telling their future.
In the meantime, Pharaoh, the most powerful man in Egypt, has also been having unusual dreams. No one can interpret these dreams, so Pharaoh is intrigued when he hears of the young slave’s ability. He immediately has Joseph brought before him to interpret his dreams.
Joseph offers his interpretation, that seven years of bounty will be followed by seven years of famine, and Pharaoh is so impressed that he appoints Joseph to a post in the government. He will be in charge of storing food for the upcoming hard times.
When the famine does hit, Joseph’s father and brothers in Canaan are ill-prepared. They hear that there is food available in Egypt, so the brothers travel there to beg for assistance. Once there, they are brought before Joseph who recognizes them immediately even though they do not know him. He tests their honesty and humility by planting a golden chalice in the sack of his brother, Benjamin, to see what they will say. When confronted with the supposed evidence of theft, the brothers maintain the boy’s innocence and offer to let themselves be taken prisoner instead.
Joseph sees that his brothers have changed, so, to everyone’s great joy, he reveals his true identity. Finally, Jacob is brought to Egypt to join his family and to again see his beloved son at last.