Nicholas Udall

Nicholas Udall

[yoo-dawl or, for 1, yood-l]
Udall, Nicholas, 1505-56, English dramatist, educated at Oxford. He was headmaster of Eton (1534-41) and of Westminster School (from 1554). His one extant play, Ralph Roister Doister (c.1545), is regarded as the first complete English comedy. The influence of Plautus and Terence is evident, but the play is distinguished by its elements of native English humor.

Nicholas Udall (1504 – December 23, 1556), was an British playwright and schoolmaster, the author of Ralph Roister Doister, generally regarded as the first comedy written in the English language.


Udall was born in Hampshire and was educated at Westminster School and at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He taught Latin at Eton College, of which he was headmaster from about 1534 until 1541, when he was forced to leave after being convicted under the Buggery Act 1533 for committing sodomy with two of his pupils, one by the name Thomas Cheyney. Although the felony of buggery carried a sentence of capital punishment (by hanging), his sentence was reduced to just under a year in prison.

A Protestant, he flourished under Edward VI and survived into the reign of the Catholic Mary I. In 1547, he became Vicar of Braintree, in 1551 of Calborne, Isle of Wight and in 1554 headmaster of Westminster School.


He translated part of the Apophthegms by Erasmus, and assisted in the English version of his Paraphrase of the New Testament. Other translations were Pietro Martire's Discourse on the Eucharist and Thomas Gemini's Anatomia. Ralph Roister Doister was probably presented to Queen Mary as an entertainment around 1553, but not published until 1566.

Likewise, he is the author of a Latin textbook utilizing material from his comedy as well as Terence. Both works are thought to "display an erotics of the letter that simultaneously registers and occludes the 'open secret' of pederastic desire.


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