- Udall, Nicholas
- (1505-1556)English schoolmaster, translator, and playwright. He was educated at Winchester School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and early developed a sympathy for the doc-trines of Martin Luther, though during the Catholic restoration un-der Queen Mary I, he conformed to the established religion and con-tinued to enjoy favor at court. From 1534 to 1541 Udall was headmaster of Eton College but was discharged for misconduct in a complicated case that involved theft of silver plate belonging to the college but also seems to have included sexual abuse of one or more students. His loss of this position proved irreversible, though his rep-utation seems not to have been permanently harmed. Udall had a life-long interest in Roman comedy, publishing in 1533 a bilingual (Latin-English) collection of phrases from the plays of Terence, Floures for Latine spekynge selected and gathered out of Terence, in-tended to help schoolboys learn to converse in Latin. In the time of Queen Mary, he presented dialogues and interludes before the queen, probably acted by boys from Westminster School, of which he was headmaster from 1554 until his death.The most important product of Udall's interest in the Roman dramatists Terence and Plautus is an original play in English, Ralph Roister Doister, which seems to have been performed in 1553 or 1554 by Westminster boys. In it he adopts the tightly structured plot of the Roman comedians rather than the loose, episodic structure of medieval English drama. His characters are borrowed from his Ro-man sources but transformed into Englishmen and joined with other characters derived from English tradition. This is commonly re-garded as the first English comedy and constitutes an important step toward the rich comic literature of the Elizabethan period.In the 1540s Udall was involved in the translation of works of the humanist Erasmus, publishing an English version of selections from Erasmus' Apophthegmata (1542) for use by students, while his trans-lation of Erasmus' Paraphrase of the gospel of St. Luke about 1545 was part of a program of translations of Erasmus' spiritual writings en-couraged by Henry VIII's last queen, Catherine Parr, and other Protes-tant sympathizers at court. These Paraphrases were not published un-til 1549, when the government of Edward VI was moving toward an openly Protestant religious policy. He also translated a work on the Eucharist by the Protestant theologian Peter Martyr Vermigli.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.