England, the era of Restoration, the flowering of theater, science and sexual relations. The country is ruled by "cheerful king" Charles II (John Malkovich), who replaced the zealous Puritan Cromwell. The treasury is empty, the parliament again fiercely contests with the monarch, and France threatens London with war. On the orders of Charles from exile returned disgraced Earl of Rochester, a former royal favorite, a few months ago, angry his hegemon. The count has a bad reputation: he is known as a writer of frivolous verses and epigrams, a rare debauchee and atheist, but the king has his own kind on the former favorite. In his design, John Wilmot must compose a play that glorifies the monarch, and raise the prestige of the crown.
Following the highest wish, Freethinker is not going to. To begin with, Rochester (Johnny Depp) begins to patronize the young actress Elizabeth Barry (Samantha Morton), a booed London audience, and then writes an exposing, sarcastic masterpiece that leads Karl into a rage.