Under the Greenwood Tree or The Mellstock Quire: A Rural Painting of the Dutch School is a novel by Thomas Hardy, published anonymously in 1872. It was Hardy's second published novel, the last to be printed without his name, and the first of his great series of Wessex novels. Whilst Hardy originally thought of simply 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).
The plot concerns the activities of a group of church musicians, the Mellstock parish choir, one of whom, Dick Dewy, becomes romantically entangled with a comely new school mistress, Fancy Day. 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 the 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...