The year is 1775 and both England and France are on the verge of revolution. France has a repressive social system while England is overrun with violence.
Late one night as the Dover mail coach trudges through England, Jerry, a messenger from Tellson's Bank in London rides up. He delivers a message to Jarvis Lorry, a passenger of the coach and an agent of the bank. Jerry tells Mr. Lorry to wait for a woman in Dover.
Mr. Lorry goes to Dover where he waits for the woman, Lucie Manette. His assignment is to take Lucie to Paris to look for her father, Dr. Manette, whom she has never met. Dr. Manette has been imprisoned by the Bastille for years. Mr. Lorry has devised a plan to secretly rescue him.
Lucie and Mr. Lorry go to a wine shop in Paris owned by the Defarges, a couple who head the secret society of "Jacquerie," a revolutionary group with plans to overthrow the monarchy. Outside the wine shop the people rejoice over a broken wine cask. The poverty stricken townspeople lap up the wine, and one man uses it to write "BLOOD" on the wall - an omen of what lay ahead. "The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the street-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there" (p. 608).
Defarge is angered when he hears of Dr. Manette's unjust imprisonment. He takes Mr. Lorry and Lucie up to the garret where Dr. Manette is kept. After years of imprisonment Dr. Manette has gone mad. He has no recollection of who he is and simply sits in a corner, day after day, cobbling shoes. Mr. Lorry and Lucie rescue Dr. Manette and the three head back to England.
Five years pass and little has changed in England. Jerry Cruncher, the messenger for Tellson's, awakes in the morning and finds his wife praying. He curses her for doing so, then leaves for the bank. Tellson's sends Jerry to assist Mr. Lorry at Old Bailey where a trial is taking place. The prisoner is Charles Darnay, a Frenchman accus...