In outdoor shows, pageants, masques, etc.: a man dressed in greenery, representing a wild man of the woods or seasonal fertility. Cf.
1578 G. Whetstone Promos & Cassandra ii. i. vi, sig. Hi. (stage direct.) Phallax, Two men, apparrelled, lyke greene men at the Mayors feast, with clubbes of fyre worke.
1594 R. Wilson Coblers Prophesie sig. C1v, Comes there a Pageant by, Ile stand out of the greene mens way for burning my vestment.
1600 T. Nash Summers Last Will & Test. sig. B2v, The rest of the greene men haue reasonable voyces, good to sing catches.
1654 E. Gayton Pleasant Notes Don Quixot i. vi. 19 The strange Feasts of the Greenmen, Whiflers, Marshals, and his Ministers.
1687 M. Taubman London’s Triumph 7 Green-men, Swabs, Satyrs, and Attendants innumerable.
a1716 Bagford in ‘J. Larwood’ & J. C. Hotten Hist. Signboards (1866) x. 367 They are called woudmen or wildmen, thou’ at thes day we in ye signe call them Green Men, couered with grene boues.
1728 J. Smedley Gulliveriana 33 My Greenmen all, with Main and Might, Espouse Myself and Cause, And say, that all propos’d is right, By ancient Forest-Laws.
1801 J. Strutt Glig-gamena Angel-ðeod iv. iii. 282 The actors?were called monstrous wilde men; others were frequently distinguished by the appellation of green men; and both of them were men whimsically attired and disguised with droll masks [etc.].
1837 N. Hawthorne Twice-told Tales 81 Up with your nimble spirits, ye morrice-dancers, green-men, and glee-maidens, bears and wolves, and horned gentlemen!
1851 Gentleman’s Mag. Feb. 154/2 In 1681 a company of 20 Green Men preceded the principal pageant.
1931 Rotarian July 5/2 ‘The Green Man’ remains, twenty generations after he came to his end, as a mute testimony to England’s love of its traditional robber chief.
2006 Church Times 29 Dec. 24/1 The winter manifestation of the Green Man?will emerge from a boat on the River Thames.