The novel opens with the fiddlers and singers of the choir--including Dick, his father Reuben Dewy, and grandfather William Dewy--making the rounds in Mellstock village on Christmas Eve. When little band plays at the schoolhouse, young Dick falls for Fancy at first sight. Dick, smitten, seeks to insinuate himself into her life and affections, but Fancy's beauty has gained her other suitors, including a rich farmer and the new vicar at the parish church. The vicar, Mr. Maybold, informs the choir that he intends Fancy, an accomplished organ player, to replace their traditional musical accompaniment to Sunday services. The tranter and the rest of the band visit the vicar's home to negotiate, but reluctantly give way to the more modern organ. Meanwhile, Dick seems to win Fancy's heart, and she discovers an effective strategem to overcome her father's objection to the potential marriage. After the two are engaged secretly, however, vicar Maybold impetuously asks Fancy to marry him and lead a life of relative affluence; racked by guilt and temptation, she accepts. The next day, however, a chance meeting with the as-yet-unaware Dick, Maybold withdraws his proposal; and Fancy, simultaneously, has withdrawn her acceptance. The novel ends with a humorous portrait of Reuben, William, Mr. Day, and the rest of the Mellstock rustics as they celebrate the couple's wedding day. The mood is joyful, but at the end of the final chapter, the reader is reminded that Fancy has married with "a secret she would never tell" (her final flirtation and brief engagement to the vicar). While Under the Greenwood Tree is often seen as Hardy's gentlest and most pastoral novel, this final touch introduces a faint note of melancholy to the conclusion.
Dick Dewy, a young member of the Mellstock Choir, in love with Fancy Day. Fancy Day, the new teacher at the parish schoolhouse. Reuben Dewy, Dick's father, a "tranter" or carrier, and the de facto leader of and spokesman for the Mellstock Choir. A heavy-set, bluff, and talkative man, Reuben is at the heart of much of the rustic comedy in the novel. William Dewy, Dick's grandfather, a quiet, religious and deeply musical man who is a sort of spiritual anchor for the Choir. William Dewy also makes a brief appearence in Hardy's later novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles: he is featured in a brief anecdote about 'old Wessex' that Dairyman Crick shares with Tess, Angel Clare and the rest of the dairymen and milkmaids. Geoffrey Day, Fancy's father, the gamekeeper and steward at one of the Earl of Wessex's outlying estates. A man reputed for his eloquent silences, Geoffrey initially opposes Fancy's marriage to Dick, but eventually relents when he thinks his daughter's health is in question. Frederic Shiner, a rich farmer in Mellstock, and Dick's rival in the courtship of Fancy. Vicar Maybold, the new vicar at Mellstock. Maybold brings a gently modernizing spirit to the church life of Mellstock, replacing the choir with Fancy's organ playing, and generally paying much more attention to the moral and religious affairs of the community than his benignly neglectful predecessor. At the end of the novel, he impetuously proposes to Fancy, and is gratified by her acceptance; but a chance encounter with Dick Dewy convinces him to rescind his proposal. He ends his correspondence with Fancy by urging her to tell Dick everything, and that he will forgive her; but Hardy imples that Fancy does not follow this advice. <!--spoiler_text_end--><!--/dle_spoiler-->