A Tale of Two Cities (1911) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Barrister Sydney Caron falls in love with lovely Lucie Manette, daughter of a victim of the oppressive French aristocracy. After he successfully defends falsely accused Charles Darney, Carton's love for Lucie remains unrequited as she marries Darnay. When Darnay is ultimately condemned to death by a revolutionary tribunal during the Reign of Terror, his only hope for rescue lies with Carton.

  • A condensed silent film version of the Charles Dickens classic about the French Revolution and its subsequent Reign of Terror.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Part I: In France in the year 1757, there was a great conflict between wealth and poverty. In other words, between the aristocracy and the people. The Marquis St. Evremond was a leader of the privileged few with no respects or consideration for the rights of the common people. The Marquis seizes a young peasant girl and kills her brother who tries to defend her. He endeavors to force his attentions upon the girl, who dies form the abuse and treatment she receives from his vassals. Dr. Manette, a celebrated French physician, is called in, and when he beholds the cause of the girls death, he refuses to conceal the crime. He is hurried to the Bastille and is imprisoned without trial. During his imprisonment his home is wrecked by order of the Marquis, and his infant daughter, Lucy, is taken to London by his faithful servant, Defarge, who places her under the guardianship of Mr. Lorry, and she becomes a ward of Tellsons Bank. Dr. Manette, during his imprisonment in the Bastille, writes a document denouncing the Marquis and all his family, calling upon the people to avenge his wrongs. He is set to work as a shoemaker in his cell; his imprisonment is a living death, and he soon loses his reason and his own identity. Part II: Eight years after the events depicted in Part I, Lucy Manette has grown to young womanhood and, unknown to her, she is very much admired by Sidney Carton, a dissolute young attorney for the Tellsons Bank. Through her purity of soul and the height of her character, he is made conscious of his own weakness and deficiencies and inspired with a desire to gain her respect and friendship. Through a letter from Earnest Defarge, the former servant of Dr. Manette, Lucy learns that her father is still alive. She loses no time in going to Pairs with Mr. Lorry to find her father. Lucy finds him in the garret of Defarges wine shop, changed in mind and body. At first he does not remember his daughter, but gradually recollects. Charles Darnay, grown to manhood, is filled with disgust at the deeds of Evremond and the repression of the people, renounces his title and gives his estate for the benefit of the people. Lucy, returning to England with her father, becomes acquainted with young Darnay, who is a passenger on the same boat. The Marquis, incensed at his nephew, sends hirelings to London, who accuse him of being a spy and an enemy to England. Darnay is arrested and acquitted; the Marquis emissary cannot distinguish Darnay from Carton, the two so closely resemble each other. Darnay becomes engaged to Lucy; her father learns that his intended son-in-law is of the family of the Marquis, but does not reveal this knowledge. Mr. Lorry tells Carton of Lucys engagement and the young attorney at once congratulates her and declares that he ever will remain her and her husbands friend, to prove which he would gladly lay down his life for their happiness. Part III: The Revolution in France is kindling. A child is killed by the Marquis St. Evremonds carriage. The father swears vengeance and the same night steals into the Marquis chamber and kills him; this is the beginning of the end. The people rise in all their fury. With cries of Down with the Bastille, they overcome the jailer and recover the documents written by Dr. Manette against Evremond and all his kin. In London, living in peace and happiness with his wife Lucy, Darnay received a letter from an old servant who has been seized by the Revolutionists, and he calls upon Darnay to save him from the accusation of being in league with the Marquis. Darnay returns to Paris to help his servant and he is arrested as being an aristocrat. Dr. Manette and Lucy follow Darnay; the Doctor makes himself known as the prisoner of the Bastille and tells the infuriated populace that the young man is his son-in-law. They release Darnay and he returns to his wife, who is overjoyed. When, however, the people learn that Darnay is a nephew of the Marquis, they rearrest Darnay and condemn him to the guillotine. Sidney Carton now puts in his appearance. He bribes the jailer, gains access to his friends cell, tries to persuade Darnay to change clothes with him and let him take his place. Darnay refuses but Carton, who has provided himself with chloroform, applies it to the prisoners nostrils and while he is unconscious, changes garments with him, calls the jailers, has them carry Darnay to the carriage, which he, Carton, has in waiting. Soon Darnay is restored to Lucy and her father; they safely make their way to London, while Carton is taken to the guillotine and suffers the death penalty, a willing sacrifice for the love and friendship he bore Lucy and her husband. - The Moving Picture World, March 4, 1911

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