I am reading the novel 'A tale of two cities'. In the novel, the sentence goes like this: There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face. My question is why there were is used here. Shouldn't it be there was? Thank you.
Both forms are possible. Here is why.
There were [two people] (a king... and a queen...)
There was a king ... and [there was] a queen ...
Either of these sentences could express the same idea. The second has two coordinated noun phrases, to produce a plural noun phrase "a king... and a queen". The second has two parallel coordinated clauses, each is singular, the second has its subject implied by the parallelism.
So both were and was are correct. Nowadays I feel the second is more common, especially when each singular noun phrase is complex. But Dickens's form is correct, and may have been more common 150 years ago.