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Why don't you go? Why don't you leave Manderley? He doesn't need you. He's got his memories. He doesn't love you, he wants to be alone again with her. You've nothing to stay for. You've nothing to live for really, have you? Look down there. It's easy, isn't it? Why don't you? Why don't you? Go on. Go on. Don't be afraid!
~ Mrs. Danvers goading Mrs. de Winter into committing suicide.

Mrs. Danvers is the main antagonist of Daphne du Maurier's novel Rebecca, and its 1940 film adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock, by the same name, as well as its 1997 adaption as two-part television miniseries and it's 2020 remake.

She was portrayed by the late Judith Anderson in the 1940 film adaptation. In the 1997 TV miniseries, she was portrayed by the late Diana Rigg, who also played Sandie Collins in Last Night in Soho, The Evil Queen in the 1987 film adaptation of Snow White, and Winifred Gillyflower in Doctor Who. In the 2020 film version, she was portrayed by Kristin Scott Thomas, who also portrayed Crystal Thompson in Only God Forgives and Ana Miller in Tomb Raider.


Icy, stern and imposing, Mrs. Danvers appears at first glance as distant yet polite and professional. But it becomes increasingly obvious that she is in fact hateful, bitter and obsessed. She admired Rebecca to the point of (a very disturbing) adoration and despises her new mistress, dismissing her as a worthless substitute. She loathes Maxim for daring to remarry and would do anything to sabotage the couple and keep them miserable out of petty spite.



In the beginning of the story, a young woman whose name is never revealed meets Maximilian de Winter, a widower aristocrat, in Monte Carlo. The two fall in love and get quickly married, and Maxim takes his new wife to his country manor of Manderley, where she is welcomed warmly by all the servants working there.

The new Mrs. de Winter then meets the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, who greets her rather coldly but politely. Mrs. Danvers shows her the lady’s quarters and study, where every bedsheet and piece or paper bear an embroidered “R,” the initial of Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca: a beautiful and sophisticated woman who seemed to be the perfect noble lady in all regards, but died a year ago in mysterious circumstances, when her yacht sank.

Trouble Arises[]

The new Mrs. de Winter, who comes from a modest background, has difficulties to adapt to her new role and to cope with Rebecca's haunting presence, which marks the manner as if she was still living there. A presence kept alive by Mrs. Danvers, who keeps Rebecca's old bedroom perfectly tidy and organized like a shrine of some sort.

Mrs. Danvers uses her new mistress' doubts against her, always suggesting or making it seem that Rebecca was a better lady and even a better wife, to such extent that the new Mrs. de Winter begins to doubt Maxim's love for her, believing that he still prefers Rebecca. It also appears that Rebecca's "cousin" Jack Favell, (in fact one of her lovers) frequently visits Manderley when Maxim is away, being on friendly terms with Mrs. Danvers.

At some point, Mrs. de Winter orders Mrs. Danvers to get rid of everything in her quarters that belonged to Rebecca, stating that she is the new Mrs. de Winter. Mrs. Danvers complies, and in what first appears to a better disposition towards her new mistress, she advises her to wear the same dress as one of Maxim's female ancestors, who is represented in a painting, for the upcoming costume party.

The Costume Party[]

Mrs Danvers' madness

Mrs Danvers attempts to have Mrs de Winter leap to her death

It soon appears that Rebecca wore the exact same dress in a costume party the year before, something that infuriates Maxim to the point of yelling at his wife, just like Mrs. Danvers predicted. Distraught and confused, Mrs. de Winter flees to her room and enters a sort of trance. As she is standing near the open window, Mrs. Danvers approaches and nearly causes her to commit suicide, by telling her that no one will ever replace Rebecca.

Shortly after, Rebecca's sunken yacht is discovered. It appears that the ship was sabotaged so that it would sink at sea and that Rebecca's corpse is still inside, Maxim having identified another drowned woman as his first wife one year ago.

Truth Revealed[]

Maxim is immediately suspected of having murdered Rebecca. He then confesses to his wife that he always hated Rebecca, who is revealed to have really been a vain and spiteful woman he wed for an arranged marriage, who antagonized him and openly cheated on him many times, while cultivating the image of a paragon of virtue.

He also confesses that Rebecca died during a heated argument, in which she had claimed to be pregnant with an illegitimate baby who would inherit Maxim's name and title, driving him over the edge. In the original novel, Maxim purposely shot Rebecca, in the movie adaptation she dies died when she hit her head in an accidental fall in the midst of their skirmish. Maxim later sabotaged her yacht and put her corpse in, so that it would disappear at sea.

Mrs. Danvers and Jack Favell, who are convinced that Maxim killed Rebecca and that her unborn baby was Jack's, go to the police and try to have Maxim judged. However, it is ultimately revealed by a doctor whom Rebecca consulted under Mrs. Danvers' name that not only she could not have children due to a malformation of her uterus, but she was dying of cancer. She then goaded her husband into killing her, so as to die on her own terms, probably hoping that he would get arrested out of sheer pettiness.


Now that Rebecca's suicide has been established, Maxim returns to Manderley, only to find it ablaze. His wife then welcomes him in a loving embrace, telling him that Mrs. Danvers set the manor on fire, for she would rather destroy it than witness them living happily in it. The demented housekeeper is last seen wandering in the midst of the fire, shortly before the blazing roof collapses killing her (in the novel, it is said that Mrs. Danvers fled before burning Manderley, never to be seen again).

In the final scene of the movie, the flames are seen devouring the embroidered 'R' on a pillow (in a fashion similar to the flames devouring the 'Rosebud' sled in Orson Welles' masterpiece Citizen Kane) ending Rebecca's haunting grasp over those who knew her for good.


  • Floria Robson was Hitchcock's original choice to play Mrs. Danvers, but she turned down the role.

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