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Under the Greenwood Tree
Thomas Hardy Program Notes Who's Who Story Synopsis Links + Bibliography The Forum Masterpiece Theatre Under the Greenwood Tree
Story Synopsis [imagemap with 6 links]

Story Synopsis

Plot revealed below!

On Christmas Eve, the members of the Mellstock choir prepare themselves for the annual caroling. Mellowed by generous mugs of cider, the men and boys head out into the snow, clutching their fiddles. The first stop is the school, where they sing for Fancy Day, the new schoolmistress. At first there is no indication that she has heard them, but at last she appears, framed picture-like at a window. The choir moves on, only later discovering that Dick Dewy has remained behind. They find him leaning against the school, staring up dreamily at the now darkened window.

At church on the following morning, Fancy Day causes a stir of excitement. She is the primary attraction for three men: Dick, Farmer Shiner, and the new vicar, Mr. Maybold. She commits what amounts to blasphemy when she leads the young girls in singing along with the men. As long as anyone can remember, only the males have provided music for the church service. Some of the older and wiser men foresee trouble ahead.

Later that day, Dick's father Reuben throws his annual Christmas party to which the whole village is invited. The wine flows and before long the musicians strike up. During the dancing that follows, Dick is alternately delighted and depressed by Fancy. He is very happy when he can claim her as his partner, but feels dejected when she dances with Farmer Shiner, a handsome and wealthy man. When Shiner escorts her home, the evening is ruined for the young Dick.

The male church choir is also upset, for the members have heard disquieting rumors that they are to be displaced by a mechanical organ, to be played by Fancy Day. They learn from the Vicar Maybold that their fears are well founded, for he has brought an organ to the church, preferring that instrument to the voices of a choir. Out of kindness to the choir members, he agrees to a brief respite before dispensing with their singing. But the writing is on the wall. As Maybold tells the gathered men, "You can't stand in the way of progress."

Dick, meanwhile, is excited to learn that Fancy is to dine at the Dewy home. When he arrives, full of excitement to see her, he is dismayed to find Farmer Shiner already present. During dinner, however, his spirits rise when Fancy allows him to touch her hand. He is even more excited that he is to drive her home and plans to state his feelings for her then. During the trip, however, Dick cannot find the words to express what is in his heart.

In the months that follow, all three men set their cap at the attractive schoolmistress. Farmer Shiner offers her comfort and security and is favored by Fancy's father, while Mr. Maybold flatters her intelligence and offers her social status. Dick, a handsome laborer, offers nothing more than a true heart. Fancy is torn -- should her head or her heart rule her?

As spring turns to summer, Dick hears many rumors about Fancy's friendliness with Mr. Maybold and Farmer Shiner; the news drives him to desperation. Finally, his patience runs out and he resolves to have it out with Fancy. He writes her a letter but on his way to deliver it, he sees Fancy waiting for the carrier to take her home. Seizing the opportunity, Dick helps her into his cart and triumphantly carries her off. On the way home, he finally proposes to her. But will she accept him?

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