I Google-d Madame Defarge (I’m such an exemplary scholar) and came across this great image by Fred Barnard, whose TOTC images we have looked at before. I’m intrigued that MD and Miss Pross look so similar – and that MD looks rather less beautiful and glamorous than Dickens portrays her!
On Victorian Web (the source of this image), there is an interesting discussion about Barnard’s decision to portray the women as, physically, rather different from Dickens’s descriptions.
Here’s another take on this scene (also taken from Victorian Web), by John McLenan and featured in the American magazine Harper’s Weekly:
Again, MD looks less than glamorous, and it is just me or is Miss Pross wearing the most extraordinarily impractical dress? I’m surprised that MD could get a hold of her at all. Miss Pross is gripping her ear to indicate her deafness, apparently. This instalment and illustration appeared in Harper’s in the States only a week after the AYR instalment appeared, so our American cousins weren’t too far behind us.
And here’s a clip of the scene as represented in a 1980 drama. Madame Defarge is played, brilliantly, by the redoubtable Billie Whitelaw.
It’s interesting that this adaptation forgoes the English/French language divide and plays the whole scene out in English. No sign of Miss Pross’s (potential) Welshness here: ‘I am an Englishwoman!’ she declares.
Also, I read on Wikipedia that Madame Defarge is supposed to represent one of the Greek Fates, snipping away at the thread of life via her knitting. I hadn’t considered such a fascinating reading of MD, which really lifts her, as does the comparison with Lady Macbeth, into the realm of mythology and archetype.
Also, if you’re feeling a little sad, like me and Holly, that MD is no more, here’s an entertaining little piece from The Telegraph, written during the bicentenary, celebrating MD.