How did Shakespeare and an insurance salesman influence the development of a popular Christmas carol?
“Greensleeves” was a folk song in the time of William Shakespeare. Some people believe that King Henry VIII of England penned the song, which was written about a beautiful woman named Lady Greensleeves. This idea may have originated when Henry’s daughter Elizabeth danced to the tune. We do know that the references to the song were made popular by Shakespeare’s play “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”
As with many popular folk songs, the melody of “Greensleeves” was paired with updated lyrics to create the modern carol “What Child is This?” The man responsible for the transformation was Englishman William Chatterton Dix, an insurance agent who also wrote hymns. The carol’s words invite listeners to imagine the manger scene in Bethlehem.
Just as a lullaby quiets a crying babe, so the words of this carol can soothe the weariest soul with its message of hope and joy. As Christmas nears, let your heart enthrone the Christ child as your King, for this Christmas and always.