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She is arguably the main villain of the novel, and ruthlessly seeks revenge against the Evrémondes, including Charles Darnay, his wife Lucie Manette and their child, for crimes a prior generation of the Evrémonde family had committed. These crimes include the deaths of her sister, brother, and father. Eventually, her quest for vengeance becomes her own undoing and results in her downfall and death.
Defarge represents one aspect of the Fates. The Moirai (the Fates as represented in Greek mythology) used yarn to measure out the life of a man, and cut it to end it; Defarge knits, and her knitting secretly encodes the names of people to be killed.
Cinematic and Theatrical Portrayals 
In the 1980 TV movie A Tale of Two Cities, Madame Defarge is played by Billie Whitelaw.
In the 1981 Mel Brooks film, History of the World, Part I, Madame Defarge (played by Cloris Leachman) is the chief conspirator in the plot to overthrow King Louis XVI. She has become so poor, she has run out of wool, simply rubbing her knitting needles together.
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