Nicholas Udall


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Only mentioned. Alexander is one of the heroes of legend and history that Merrygreek claims all women think of when they behold Ralph Roister Doister.


Annot Alyface is, like Tibet Talkapace, one of Dame Custance's maids. Only slightly less talkative that Tibet, Annot seems especially fond of singing and initiates the first of the songs that are spread throughout the play.


Only mentioned. Roister Doister is attempting to impress Margery Mumblecrust. Merrygreek tells the old woman that Roister Doister once snatched a club from Belzebub's hand during a fight.


Only mentioned. Brute is one of the heroes Merrygreek insists all women think of when they encounter Roister Doister.


A "ghost character." Bryan Blinkinsop is one of the individuals Merrygreek admits to having sponged from before taking up with Ralph Roister Doister.


Only mentioned. In an attempt to flatter the braggart, Merrygreek tells Ralph Roister Doister that he sometimes refers to him as the "third Cato."


Only mentioned. Charles le Maigne (Charlemagne) is one of the heroes Merrygreek claims all women think of when they see Roister Doister.


Dame Christian Custance is a widow betrothed to the absent merchant Gawin Goodluck. For much of the play, she is the unwilling target of amorous advances by the braggart Ralph Roister Doister, and she can only make him desist by having her maids and servants, aided by Matthew Merrygreek, attack the coward near the play's end. When Goodluck returns from his business abroad, he receives information from his servant Sim Suresby that could indicate Dame Custance was involved with the braggart, and the merchant is at first reserved. The widow, however, calls Goodluck's best friend Tristram Trusty to be a witness to her constancy, and she and Goodluck are reunited happily.


Only mentioned. Colbrand is a Danish warrior killed by Guy of Warwick in the medieval romance that bears the latter's name. Merrygreek asserts that he is one of the heroes all women think of when they encounter Roister Doister.


A "ghost character." Davy Diceplayer is one of the many individuals Merrygreek admits to having sponged from before taking up with Ralph Roister Doister.


A boy servant to Roister Doister. Dobinet Doughty carries his master's ring and token to Dame Custance. He arrives after the widow has scolded Margery Mumblecrust for having accepted Roister Doister's letter, and he has to wait to find someone willing to deliver the love gifts. When Tom Truepenny and the maids arrive, Doughty passes himself off as a servant to Dame Custance's new "husband" and allows them to think he is employed by Gawin Goodluck. Hoping to ingratiate herself with her mistress, Tibet Talkapace grabs the gifts and takes them to the widow.


Only mentioned. Queen Elizabeth is praised by each of the characters on stage at the play's end (Gawin Goodluck, Dame Custance, Tristram Trusty, Matthew Merrygreek, Ralph Roister Doister, and Harpax), and they pray for God's blessings upon her.


Gawin Goodluck is a merchant affianced to Dame Christian Custance. Returning from business on the continent, he learns from his servant Sim Suresby that the widow may be entertaining Ralph Roister Doister, and he decides to find out for himself. Meeting her, Goodluck is at first reserved and suspicious, but Dame Custance summons his friend Tristram Trusty who promptly bears witness to the widow's innocence. The lovers are reconciled, and Sim is forgiven because his suspicions were the result of imperfect information and his desire to protect his employer. At the play's end, Goodluck orders a feast and even invites Matthew Merrygreek and Ralph Roister Doister to attend.


Only mentioned. The ancient hero Goliah (i.e., Goliath) is one of the worthies Merrygreek insists women think of when they happen to see Roister Doister.


Only mentioned. Guy of Warwick is the main character of a famous medieval romance and the type of hero Merrygreek asserts all women think of when they see Roister Doister.


A "ghost character." Hankin Hoddydoddy is one of the individuals Merrygreek admits to having sponged from before taking up with Ralph Roister Doister.


Harpax is one of Ralph Roister Doister's servants. Early in the play, he is present when the braggart sends his letter to Dame Custance, and later, he is among those invited to the feast Goodluck orders for the widow and himself. At the end of the play, he is one of the characters who deliver short speeches (or lines of a song) in praise of Queen Elizabeth.


Only mentioned. The Trojan prince Hector is one of the famous individuals Merrygreek claims all women think of when they see Roister Doister pass by.


Only mentioned. Hercules is another of the many heroes Merrygreek asserts all women think of when they behold Roister Doister.


Only mentioned. While Gawin Goodluck visits Tristram Trusty to seek assurance that Dame Christian Custance has indeed been faithful in his absence, the widow prays to heaven for the kind of support God showed to the biblical women Susanna and Hester (Esther).


A "ghost character." Sir Hugh Pie is one of the individuals Merrygreek admits to having sponged from before taking up with Ralph Roister Doister.


A "ghost character." Jack Raker is a ballad maker whose efforts evidently are unsuccessful because Merrygreek sarcastically likens Roister Doister's ridiculous attempts at songs and ballads to them.


Only mentioned. Merrygreek in his attempt to impress Margery Mumblecrust with Roister Doister's supposed physical prowess claims that Roister Doister once beat the King of Crickets on Christmas day and sent him packing into a hole.


Nickname of Dame Custance. Ralph Roister Doister uses the diminutive "Kit" for Dame Custance in his attempts to woo her.


Only mentioned. The Arthurian hero Lancelot is one of the warriors Merrygreek insists women think of whenever Roister Doister appears.


A "ghost character." Lewis Loiterer is one of the individuals Merrygreek admits to having sponged from before taking up with Ralph Roister Doister.


Margery Mumblecrust is Dame Christian Custance's old nurse. Usually addressed as "Madge," it is she who is first impressed by the braggart Ralph Roister Doister and delivers his love letter to the widow. For this, she is scolded and ordered by Dame Custance not to accept anything else that might be sent. Mumblecrust participates with the other servants in the comic attack on Roister Doister's party late in the play.


A parasite. Patterned after the parasite of Roman comedy, Matthew Merrygreek attaches himself to the braggart Ralph Roister Doister early in the play. He encourages Roister Doister to pursue the virtuous widow Dame Custance and even visits her on the braggart's behalf to find out if the love letter and gifts have made an impression. The report of the widow's contempt for Roister Doister's proposal sends the braggart into such a state that he swears he will die, and Merrygreek takes delight in performing a parody of the Roman Catholic service for the dead over him. When Roister Doister drops his pose, the parasite urges him to confront Dame Custance in person and he agrees. When the suitor reminds the widow of his gifts and love letter, Dame Custance allows Merrygreek to read the letter aloud, and the parasite takes delight in following the mangled punctuation in such a way that the missive is deliciously insulting. Later, Merrygreek bears threats from his sponsor to the widow, but always ready to engage in trickery, he allies himself with Dame Custance. He stage manages the final, comic battle in front of the widow's house in such a way that he may repeatedly hit the braggart even as he is pretending to strike at Dame Custance. At the end of the play, he offers apologies for himself and Roister Doister, is invited by Gawin Goodluck to the feast, and participates in the concluding tributes to Queen Elizabeth.


A "ghost character." Mumfision is someone with whom Roister Doister has had military dealings. When the braggart starts to speak of Mumfision in an attempt to impress Margery Mumblecrust, Merrygreek interrupts, telling him the story is too long to relate at this moment.


A "ghost character." Nichol Neverthrive is one of the individuals Merrygreek admits to having sponged from before taking up with Ralph Roister Doister.


The Parish Clerk appears when Ralph Roister Doister, having been spurned by Dame Custance, feigns that he is dying of a broken heart. As Matthew Merrygreek engages in a parodic version of the Roman Catholic service for the dead, the Clerk and the musicians ring bells as though the braggart truly is about to die.


The Prologue comments to the audience upon the positive, vivifying, and recreational value of mirth (as long as it does not entail scurrility), and in an apparent reference to Plautus and Terence, observes that ancient writers used comedies to communicate "virtuous lore" to their societies.


Ralph Roister Doister is a cowardly, conceited braggart enamored of the widow Dame Custance. With encouragement from the parasite Matthew Merrygreek, he attempts to woo her, even though it is commonly known that she is devoted to the absent merchant Gawin Goodluck. When all of his overtures (a love letter, a ring and token, serenades before her house) are rebuffed, he takes Merrygreek's advice and confronts the woman directly in what degenerates into a comic battle royal between his servants and those of the widow. Because most people cannot stay angry with him for long, he is forgiven at the end of the play by the newly returned Gawin Goodluck and is invited to attend the feast in the happy couple's honor.


A "ghost character." Rig is a spaniel in Dame Custance's household. Tibet Talkapace reports that the dog is noteworthy for its clumsy behavior.


Only mentioned. The Israelite strong man Sampson is yet another of the heroes Merrygreek pretends women have to think of when they behold Roister Doister.


Roister Doister commissions the Scrivener to create a love letter for Dame Custance. Because the braggart confuses the punctuation while recopying it, the prankish Merrygreek can read it to the widow in such a way that the intended flattery is changed to insults. Roister Doister blusters that he will have satisfaction from the Scrivener, but when the writer appears and is clearly ready to defend himself physically if necessary, the cowardly Roister Doister is forced to accept some of the blame for the fiasco.


Sim Suresby is a servant to Gawin Goodluck sent to Dame Custance a day before his master's return. Witnessing one of Roister Doister's attempts to ingratiate himself with the widow and hearing of the ring and token the braggart has sent to the woman, Sim retires to inform Goodluck that all may not be well. When Goodluck's friend Tristram Trusty stands witness to Dame Custance's constancy, Sim is forgiven for any offense he may have given her because his actions were the result of consideration for his master.


Only mentioned. While Gawin Goodluck visits Tristram Trusty to seek assurance that Dame Christian Custance has indeed been faithful in his absence, the widow prays to heaven for the kind of support God showed to Hester (Esther) and to the maligned Susanna of the Apocrypha.


With Annot Alyface, Tibet Talkapace is one of Dame Custance's maids. As her name suggests, she is given to chatter and is especially fond of clichés and homely proverbs.


A "ghost character." Tom Titivale is one of the individuals Merrygreek admits to having sponged from before taking up with Ralph Roister Doister.


Tom Truepenny is a boy servant in the household of Dame Christian Custance. He is misled by Dobinet Doughty into thinking the ring and token the latter brings is from the widow's beloved Gawin Goodluck, and along with Tibet Talkapace, Annot Alyface, and Margery Mumblecrust, is chastised by Dame Custance for bringing the unwanted gifts and communications from Ralph Roister Doister.


Tristram Trusty is Gawin Goodluck's best friend. After Dame Christian Custance suspects that Sim Suresby may have misunderstood her relationship to Ralph Roister Doister, she summons Trusty, explains the unwanted advances she has received from that quarter, and assures him that she is absolutely devoted to Goodluck. Trusty believes her, and after Goodluck's return, does indeed stand warrant for the widow's constancy.


A "ghost character." Watkins Waster is one of the individuals Merrygreek admits to having sponged from before taking up with Ralph Roister Doister.


The Prologue enters and stresses the mirthful aspects of the play about to be presented.

I.i Matthew Merygreeke enters and tells us about his friend Ralph Roister Doister. Doister is a braggart and a Petrarchan lover, always about to die for the love of some woman he has just met. Because of Doister's high self-opinion he is susceptible to flattery. Hence, Merygreeke has a grand time twisting Doister around his finger with flattery. Doister, of course, believes Merygreeke is his very good friend.

I.ii finds Doister accosting Merygreeke. Doister has fallen in love with Christian Custance (whose name he cannot initially remember). He wants her for his wife or else he will "runne madde." The problem is that she is already promised to Gawyn Goodlucke, a prosperous merchant who is presently away on business. Merygreeke flatters Doister greatly and swears to help him get Custance. The whole thing, of course, is a lark to Merygreeke who loves to get Doister into tight places in order to watch him squirm. Merygreeke leaves to fetch minstrels so that Doister might serenade Custance.

I.iii finds Doister eavesdropping upon Custance's maids-Mage Mumblecrust, Tibet Talkapace, and Annot Alyface. Each is doing a household chore (spinning on a distaff, sewing, and knitting, respectively). The women engage in bawdy talk while Doister, listening, is all the more certain he wants Custance for wife-a woman who would employ such servants! The women sing and soon discover Doister eavesdropping. Doister kisses old Mumblecrust, and she is his servant. Talkapace refuses to be kissed. Mumblecrust promises to take a message to her mistress for Doister, but Doister refuses to tell her his name. Doister whispers in Mumblecrust's ear what she is to tell Custance.

I.iv finds Merygreeke and the minstrels-Doister's servants-entering and seeing Doister whispering to Mumblecrust. Dobinet Doughty thinks Mumblecrust is the intended quarry of Doister and compliments him on her-though she is obviously an old lady. Merygreeke glorifies Doister (some horrible tall tales) for Mumblecrust's edification, then beats Doister under the guise of brushing lint from his coat. Doister gives Mumblecrust a letter to deliver to Custance, swearing he wrote it himself. He promises that the worst kitchen wench will be treated like nobility if he should become master of Custance's house. Mumblecrust is all too eager to forward his position with her lady.

In I.v Mumblecrust gives Custance the letter. Mumblecrust angers Custance by not being able to tell who sent her the letter, the gentleman not having left his name. Custance swears she will be true to her promise to Gawyn Goodlucke and tells Mumblecrust, under pain of punishment, "bring mee no mo letters for no man's pleasure, / But you know from whom [it comes]."

II.i begins the next morning. Doughty is delivering a present to Custance. He speaks of Doister's typical ardor in such times of passion-he's been through it all before-apparently many times.

II.ii finds Mumblecrust meeting Doughty. Doughty asks her to deliver the gift from his master to Custance. But Mumblecrust will not because she has already been scolded once for such service. Truepenny (another of Custance's servants) enters.

II.iii begins with Truepenny's first lines. Doughty pretends to have lost something-or be looking for a house on the street and paying no attention to Truepenny. It is a ruse to lure Truepenny into conversation without her suspecting that Doughty really wants a favor. The plan works. Doughty informs Truepenny that he is the servant of the man Custance is to marry. Truepenny mistakes him, thinking he means Gawyn Goodlucke, and promises to deliver the gift. Talkapace and Alyface enter. Truepenny introduces Doughty to them as the "Servant to hym that must be our mistresse husbande." They are happy to meet Doughty and sing. Doughty delivers the gift, a ring, and Talkapace takes it for Custance.

II.iv The ring is delivered to Custance. Custance is annoyed at receiving another gift from her secret admirer, scolds Talkapace for bringing it, and sends Truepenny out to catch Doughty and bring him to her. Custance's maids swear they will be more careful in accepting tokens for Custance in the future. Custance promises they will "abye" it if they don't. Truepenny returns but has not found Doughty.

III.i Merygreeke, having the time of his life, decides to let Custance in on his prank.

III.ii finds Merygreeke with Custance and Talkapace. Custance obviously knows Merygreeke and welcomes him as a friend. Custance discovers (upon opening the letter she was sent via Mumblecrust) that it is Doister wooing her. She considers him a fool and refuses even to consider him for husband. She hurls invective at him. Merygreeke says he will convey her message to Doister. He tells her "we will laugh well, ye shall see."

III.iii Merygreeke greets Doister and gives him Custance's stern rebuff. Doister determines to go home and die. Merygreeke builds Doister up with flattery again, though, and convinces Doister to go and win Custance, "That she may knowe she hath to answere to a man." Doister calls his musicians again and they go sing in front of Custance's door.

III.iv Custance comes out to see who is wailing at her door. She again scorns Doister and, for reason, produces the letter he sent her. Merygreeke reads it aloud, changing the punctuation in order to make the letter sound insulting-he reads "Sweete mistress, whereas I love you nothing at all, / Regarding your substance and richesse" instead of "Sweete mistress, whereas I love you--nothing at all regarding your substance and richesse" etc. Custance says she would not brunt such an insult. Doister despairs, but again Merygreeke flatters him and tells him, "If she despise you, e'en dispise ye hir againe!" He tells Doister that, if he were a woman, he would marry Doister himself. Doister agrees to avoid Custance in order to make her want him, but in the meantime he goes to find the scribe who wrote his love letter for him.

III.v is the scrivener's scene. The scrivener reads the letter as he punctuated it and thus shows himself guiltless of the misunderstanding between Doister and Custance. The Scrivener beats Doister for questioning his integrity. Doister realizes the fault lies in Merygreeke's reading of the letter. Merygreeke beats Doister for threatening him. Then Merygreeke promises to mend the mess he has made in order to make all well with Custance again.

IV.i Sym Suresby, Gawyn Goodlucke's man, has come ahead to see whether his master's mistress, Custance, is well.

IV.ii Sym meets Custance. She is eager for Goodlucke's return.

IV.iii Doister and Merygreeke accost Custance in Suresby's presence. They speak of the ring and letter, of a marriage between Doister and Custance, etc., and cause Suresby to question Custance's fidelity. Suresby leaves to go on other errands for his master. Custance upbraids Doister and orders him off. Doister promises to be revenged upon her for rejecting him. Custance sends Truepenny for Goodlucke's old friend Tristam Trusty to come to her aid.

IV.iv finds the women preparing for Doister's threatened attack. They plan to use household implements to drive the attackers away (distaff, broom, skimmer, firefork, spit).

IV.v Truepenny returns with Trusty. Custance tells Trusty what is going on-and Trusty says he heard of it from Suresby when Suresby came by. Trusty promises his aid in her struggle with Doister. Merygreeke enters to tell Custance that it is all a lark to make Doister look foolish. Merygreeke sets up a plan with Custance to act like he is going to hit her, but will accidentally strike Doister in the fight.

IV.vii is the arming scene. Merygreeke beats Doister again after a brief misunderstanding. Custance, as previously prepared with Merygreeke, sees Doister and his men and runs off in feigned fear. Doister is given a kitchen pot by Merygreeke to wear as a helmet.

Trusty comes forth and begs that Doister take his grievances to the law instead of fighting over them. Doister is immediately persuaded. Merygreeke has to flatter Doister again to whet his purpose to battle. Finally Doister, who is a braggart but a coward as well, decides not to fight, but to take Trusty's advice instead. Merygreeke agrees, but fires his gun supposedly to say that the battle was fought. Actually it is a signal to instigate the battle and the fun Custance and he have prepared.

IV.viii Custance and the women spill out of the house at the sound of the pistol shot and beat the men with kitchen utensils. Talkapace beats Doughty, who had lied to her about his master. Doister falls to Custance, "Out! Alas, I am slain! Helpe!" Merygreeke runs to his rescue and, in an attempt to beat Custance, constantly beats Doister, as planned. The men, defeated, retreat.

V.i finds Suresby telling the newly-arrived Goodlucke about Custance's doubtful fidelity, the ring and letter, etc. Goodlucke decides to sound her out on the matter.

V.ii Goodlucke and Suresby accost Custance. Custance tells him that it was just the fool Roister Doister who thought he was in love with her, but Goodlucke is not persuaded. She tells Goodlucke and Suresby to go to Trusty and have her story verified by him.

V.iii Custance asks the Lord to smile on her innocence.

V.iv Goodlucke and Suresby return with Trusty to Custance. Trusty has made all clear to them. Suresby is overjoyed that he was wrong about her, and she forgives him.

V.v Merygreeke and Doister accost the group. With Doister out of hearing, Merygreeke tells Goodlucke that everything was done in fun to discomfort Doister. Goodlucke thinks it is all quite funny. Merygreeke brings Doister to the group as Goodlucke bid. He has convinced Doister that they sue for peace for fear that, having won the battle, they will be victims of Doister's vengeance. Doister, of course, believes Merygreeke's flattery and says he will show them pity. Custance gets in a Parthian shot, saying that Doister was a usurer to her, giving her one blow and requiring fifty in return. Doister and Merygreeke are invited to the nuptial feast, and all are made friends. They sing and wish health to their Queen (who is either Mary or Elizabeth depending upon when the play was revised).


Custance is constant in her love of Goodlucke and detestation of Roister Doister.

Roister Doister is a Miles Gloriosus-but a cowardly braggart.

Merygreeke is the rake.

Mumblecrust is the old servant.

Talkapace is the busybody, talkative servant.

Alyface is the maidenly and good servant.

Suresby is the good servant.

Goodlucke is the handsome, well-balanced lover.

Trusty is.

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Notes of Interest:

Doister, the self-proclaimed fighter, is beaten by almost everyone-his friend Merygreeke (several times), the scrivener, even Custance find opportunity to cuff him soundly-each time just as Doister is about to do the cuffing himself. He never lands a blow.

The play is broken into "French" scenes. A new scene begins when a major character enters or exits the scene. Hence, many new scenes are but continuations of the scene in progress.

Two days apparently pass in the play.

The play appears to have been written around 1552 for performance before Edward VI. But the references to a Queen at the end indicates it was revised under either Mary or Elizabeth.

There is a lot of coin and money imagery here-grote, penny, Truepenny, pounds, etc.

Because Roister Doister is such a fool, and is early on associated with the Petrarchan-styled lover, it could be that this play indicates a shift from that style. It now has become something of an object of fun, to be poked and beaten on stage.

Plays to be compared:

Respublica, as it might be another play by Udall written about the same time;

Marlowe's Edward II and Shakespeare's Richard III (for the use of a letter which is misunderstood by the receiving person-cf. also Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, in particular the Pedringano subplot for a lesser echo of a misread (or missing) letter device).

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