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macdougall 2018-09-28 | Montreal Dickens Fellowship

Montreal Dickens Fellowship
for the best of times

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

Charles Dickens was as much a performer as a writer; in fact towards the end of his life he made much more money from his “readings” in England and the US than he did from his writing. For these readings he chose extracts from his books (or stories he had written) to which his audience would strongly react emotionally, and adapted them for performance. This is a re-creation of such a Dickensian performance.

A Tale of Two Cities was Dickens’ 12th novel; it was published in installments in 1859 in Dickens’ new literary periodical All the Year Round. It is a historical novel set in London and Paris around the time of the French Revolution.

The reading is in three parts, each being a separate episode from the novel. The first part entitled The Bastille Prisoner was prepared by Dickens himself, but never performed. The second and third parts entitled The Fancy Ball and Echoing Footsteps were originally prepared and performed by the eminent actor Emlyn Williams.

Main characters in this reading:
Mr Jarvis Lorry – an employee of Tellson’s Bank in London and Paris
Le Marquis St. Evremonde – an evil French aristocrat
Dr Manette – the “Doctor of Beauvais”; client of Tellson’s Bank; unjustly imprisoned in Paris by Evremonde; taken to London by Lorry on his release
Lucie Manette – his daughter, who had believed him to be dead
Defarge – one-time servant of Manette; later a Paris wine merchant; became a leader of the Revolution
Charles Darnay – Evremonde’s nephew and heir; rejected his family, moved to England, and eventually married Lucie
Sydney Carton – dissolute lawyer; after he helped Darnay avoid conviction for spying against England, they became friends
Monseigneur – a great lord at the French court, despised by Evremonde
Gaspard – revolutionary whose infant son was killed by Evremonde’s coach
Seamstress – condemned prisoner in Paris, befriended by Carton

Some terms explained:
Mail – a fast horse-drawn coach, taking passengers but principally for carrying the mail.
Packet – a ship providing scheduled passenger service.
Drawer – a servant in a coaching inn.
The Comedy – La Comedie-Francaise – a venerable Paris theatre.
Jalousie-blinds - window blinds made of horizontal slats.
Flambeau – flaming torch.
The Gorgon – figure from Greek mythology whose gaze turned people to stone.
The Conciergerie – a palace in Paris turned into a prison during the Revolution.
Tumbrils – two-wheeled open carts.
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