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
, 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
. 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.