277. Ralph Roister Doister by Nicholas Udall (c. 1552)

Thought to be the earliest surviving English stage comedy. Who could resist a play with this title?

Source : I read an online copy from the website Elizabethan Drama  (http://elizabethandrama.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Roister-Doister-Annotated.pdf). Overloaded with annotations and explanations to a quite overwhelming and sometimes unnecessary degree, I had to restart my read and largely ignore the annotations which fill the right hand side of the screen, to enjoy the action of the play.

Thoughts : Ralph Roister Doister is the vain braggart who is ‘assisted’ by his parasitic friend Mathew Merygreeke, both character types familiar from Roman dramatists like Plautus. Ralph’s latest love obsession is the rich widow Dame Christian Custance, but she has no interest in this blowhard and is happily engaged to another, better man. Having failed to woo her with his disastrous letter (a lesson in how not to use punctuation!) Roister Doister advances with his servants and Mergreeke to take the Dame away by force, but they prove no match for her and her female servants.

There is also a video performance available to watch on YouTube but because each scene is a separate video, the cuts between scenes are jarring. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoNEqzw6bCY&list=PL1_iVrhUrHPVDXwwXXWW1GZB9E3ebWlZM 

Favourite quotes/scenes:

I’m thinking of making this my own special creed:

Merygreeke : “Whatever chance betide, I can take no thought”

 Act 1, Scene 1, line 10

Personal rating:  6/10


As this blog approaches another anniversary, I am starting to question whether it is worthwhile. Unlike other literary blogs I read, I don’t feel I am adding much value to the Internet beyond a personal record of my own progress. I fully intend to continue my reading quest, but will be considering the blog’s future over coming weeks.


  1. Oh, I’ll be sorry if you give up! I feel as if I get a vicarious education when I read your blog without the pain of having to read this early stuff for myself. Plus, I’ve been waiting for you to get to the eighteenth century or so when I might actually know some of the books. I mean, without you, I’d never even have heard of the title Ralph Roister Doister, and I feel enriched by that glorious snippet of information! 😀


    • Thanks for your kind comments Jason. While I was procrastinating, the annual payment to WordPress went through, so I guess I’ll keep on for now, but perhaps not as regularly as before, as other interests distract me. Human nature is perverse – coming into winter and perfect cosy up with a book weather, I keep looking to head outside. 🙂


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