Barnum tells the story of the Prince of Humbug, Phineas Taylor Barnum. Over the objections of his wife, Charity, Barnum attempts to create a show in which the main attractions are freaks of society. Included in this mix of characters includes the oldest women alive, Joice Heth, the smallest man in the world, Tom Thumb, and to top it all off, a glamorous Swedish opera singer, Jenny Lind. Eventually, to appease Charity, Barnum agrees to give up the show and start a normal life. In the end, after Charity dies, Barnum returns to the circus business in grand fashion by forming a partnership with James A. Baily. Thus, the two men form The Greatest Show on Earth.