Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Episode 1 | Episode 2

Need to catch up on what's happened in Tess of the d'Urbervilles? Watch a short video recap for episode one or read the synopsis below.

Episode 1
The downtrodden Durbeyfields are surprised to learn of their distinguished ancestry as descendents of the wealthy and now extinct d'Urberville family. News that a woman with the d'Urberville name lives nearby inspires the Durbeyfields to send their daughter Tess to investigate. Tess meets handsome Alec d'Urberville, who lives on the estate with his mother. Tess is invited to take a job on the property. Alec seduces Tess with sweet words and lavish promises, but the situation soon takes a horrific turn, leaving Tess devastated and ashamed. Tess finds work on a dairy farm, where she makes three good friends, Marion, Izz and Retty. While there, Tess coincidentally meets someone she's previously only seen from afar, Angel Clare. Over a hot summer, Angel and Tess fall in love. But as her attraction deepens, Tess is torn between hope and fear. Should she confess her past to Angel, or will her honesty ruin her chances for a happy life?

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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers

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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers

One afternoon, a drunken John Durbeyfield learns of his ancestral connection to the distinguished but now extinct d'Urberville family, and seizes onto visions of a noble life. Meanwhile, his beautiful daughter Tess notices Angel Clare, a parson's son, at a dance.

John and his wife Joan convince a reluctant Tess to venture out to the nearby estate of a woman with the d'Urberville name and "claim kin." There she meets Alec d'Urberville, an apparently charming man, who lives on the estate with his mother.

Alec forges a letter in his mother's name offering Tess a job. Tess gratefully accepts, not knowing that Alec and his mother are not real d'Urbervilles. (Alec's late father bought the title with his great wealth.) Tess meets the blind Mrs. d'Urberville, and works under the wary supervision of the bailiff Groby.

Alec begins to seduce Tess, showering her with attention and gifts. Offering to ride her home after a village fair, he gets deliberately lost, tells her to sleep while he finds help, but returns to rape her.

Tess returns home ashamed and confused, now a year after the May Day dance. She has given birth to a mortally ill baby, one her father refuses to allow to be baptized in a church. Tess performs a simple ritual herself, calling him "Sorrow." When the baby dies, Tess digs a small grave on unconsecrated ground.

Tess leaves home to find work at a dairy farm and befriends three dairy girls, Marion, Izz and Retty. The girls are infatuated with Angel Clare, an educated young man working on the farm. Tess instantly recognizes him.

Over a hot summer, Tess and Angel fall in love. Angel wishes to marry Tess, and travels home to tell his parents. They do not approve as he is informally promised to marry a local girl, Mercy Chant, but soon acquiesce.

Angel rushes back to the farm to propose to Tess. She is torn between ecstasy and fear as she struggles with her strong love for Angel and a sense of guilt and unworthiness. She eventually accepts his hand.

On a trip to town, Tess encounters Alec's bailiff, Groby. He insults her, and Angel knocks him down. Tess decides that she must reveal all to Angel before they get married, and writes him a letter.

Tess is relieved to see that Angel appears to be completely unaffected by her confession. She soon discovers the unopened letter in Angel's room and tries to tell him verbally, but Angel will not hear anything. Tess burns the letter.

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