Under the Greenwood Tree
Airing Sunday, November 26, 2006 on PBS
(Check local listings; dates and times may vary)
Aired previously April 2006
Keeley Hawes stars in this enchanting adaptation of Thomas Hardy's pastoral romance set in the mid-19th century. Under The Greenwood Tree was the first of Hardy's great Wessex novels. Part love story, part comedy, the tale evokes the richness of village life tinged with melancholy for a rural world that Hardy saw fast disappearing.
Amongst the surrounding farms and woodlands of the idyllic village of Mellstock, Dorset, a bond grows between local boy Dick Dewy and a new arrival, the beautiful schoolteacher Fancy Day.
The Reverend Maybold creates a furor among the village's musicians with his decision to abolish the church's stringed instruments Quire (choir) and replace it with a new mechanical organ. But Miss Day causes an upheaval of a more romantic nature, as she steals the hearts of three very different men -- the wealthy but older Farmer Shiner, the penniless young laborer and musician Dick Dewy, and the Reverend Maybold himself.
Through a maze of intrigue and passion across four seasons, Fancy is torn; she must make a decision of either head or heart. Will true love win out or will the social traditions of Victorian England determine Fancy's future?
Meanwhile, the men's choir is restless and in open revolt about the new organ, spurred by their choirmaster, Reuben Dewy (Tony Haygarth, Bleak House), who is Dick's father.
Hardy treats this subplot as playfully as he does Fancy's romantic quandary, but it also has a poignant edge: The pump organ, or harmonium, was a new invention of the day that symbolized the passing of ancient village customs, as does the arrival of steam power and new farm machinery.
Hardy himself grew up in a village like Mellstock, and he used to play the fiddle at country-dances, weddings, and other celebrations, so he had great sympathy for the performers who fit into this vital rural niche.
In the end, Fancy finally makes up her mind to a serenade from the men's choir, singing an old English folksong, One Night as I Lay on My Bed.
Under the Greenwood Tree was first published in 1872. Although Hardy originally thought of calling it The Mellstock Quire, he settled on a title taken from a song in Shakespeare's As You Like It (Act II, Scene V):
Under the greenwood tree,
Who loves to lie with me,
And turn his merry note
Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither;
Here shall he see
But winter and rough weather.
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Preview: Under the Greenwood Tree
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