Defarge is the owner of a wine shop in the slum of Saint Antoine in Paris. He and his wife Madame Therese Defarge are passionate advocates for revolution and regularly dispense and gather information from inside the wine shop. When the story starts, Defarge is harboring Dr. Alexandre Manette, his old employer, who has just been released from eighteen years of unjust and secret imprisonment in the Bastille. Defarge is incredibly loyal to Dr. Manette and truly cares for him, but he doesn’t shrink from a little exploitation by showing Manette to other patriots as an inspiration for the revolt he hopes to incite. Defarge tells Manette’s story to a group of men in the hopes that they will spread the word of yet another injustice perpetrated by the aristocracy - specifically, a notorious pair of brothers named St. Evrèmonde. Defarge is the leader of his community and will be pivotal in leading the people on the Storming of the Bastille. He discovers a paper in Dr. Manette’s old cell in the Bastille which documents why Manette was imprisoned and by whom. These papers prove nearly fatal to the novel's protagonist, Charles Darnay, in recounting a series of injustices and murders by his father and uncle. Worse still, these infamies were committed against the family of Madame Defarge, Ernest's ruthless wife, who convinces him to denounce Darnay to the guillotine. Generally good-natured and decent, Defarge is torn by loyalty to his wife and loyalty to Dr. Manette; he does nothing to stop Manette's family from escaping France, despite Madame Defarge's urging. Darnay is not executed however; he is saved by Carton. Carton prophesies that Ernest Defarge and the Vengeance will be consumed by the Revolution's guillotine.
Portrayals in film and theater
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