UDALL, Nicholas

UDALL, Nicholas
(c. 1505-1556)
Nicholas Udall, a humanist scholar, preacher, and schoolmaster, wrote one of the first English comedies, Ralph Roister Doister. Udall received his bachelor of arts degree from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1524. Two years later he was arrested for possessing some Protestant tracts; his public renunciation of heresy ended the matter. Although there is no evidence that he was a leader in the reform cause, he was marked thereafter as possessing Lutheran beliefs.
Udall collaborated on some laudatory verses for the coronation of Anne Boleyn and in 1534 published his book Flowers for Latin Speaking, a celebrated Latin phrasebook used widely in schools. Shortly after its publication, Udall was appointed headmaster of Eton School and received his master's degree from Oxford one month later. In 1537 he was named vicar of Braintree, an office he served in absentia. He was dismissed from Eton in 1541 after being found guilty of buggery by the Privy Council, was suspected of collusion in the theft of some of the college chapel plate, and was sent to Marshalsea Prison.
Shortly thereafter, he was released and quickly regained royal favor. In the next few years he translated selections from Desiderius Erasmus,* including a collaboration sponsored by Catherine Parr. Udall, appointed canon of Windsor and rector of Calbourne, also received the right to print books. Finally, in 1555 he was appointed headmaster of Westminster School, a post in which he served until one month before his death in 1556.
His most famous play, Ralph Roister Doister, probably was first performed around 1552. This play, showing direct classical influence, most notably that of the Roman playwright Terence, serves as one of the first examples of English comedy. In addition, he wrote several other plays, one of which, Res Publica, was performed before Queen Mary,* and another, Ezechias, before Queen Eliz­abeth* after Udall's death.
W. L. Edgerton, Nicholas Udall, 1965.
E. Pittenger, " 'To Serve the Queere': Nicholas Udall, Master of Revels," in Queering the Renaissance, ed. J. Goldberg, 1994.
Erin Sadlack

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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