Corpus Christi

Nicholas Udall (1505-1556) studied at Corpus Christi between 1520 and 1524. Had he lived longer Udall may well be remembered as one of the finest playwrights of the early English Renaissance. As it is, history tends to record his relations with senior boys at Eton where he was headmaster from 1534-1541. Udall was eventually accused of ‘unnatural crime’. He confessed and was sacked and sent to prison for a year although this appears to have done him little harm. He retained royal patronage for his playwriting and was eventually made headmaster of Westminster. His play Ralph Roister Doister is considered the first English comedy and is still performed today. The plot revolves around Ralph’s love of Dame Custance which is constantly thwarted by the mischief of Matthew Merrygeek. On two occasions Merrygeek bemoans the fact that he is not a woman and cannot marry Ralph himself.


Among Corpus Christi’s more recent LGBTQ+ alumni is award-winning poet, novelist, travel writer, and biographer Vikram Seth (b. 1952) who read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the College. Many of his works, such as the novel-in-verse The Golden Gate (1986) and A Suitable Boy (1993), contain gay or bi themes and characters. Of his own homoeroticism, Seth has been less forthright not wishing to be defined by it although his mother has discussed the matter freely when interviewed. When it comes to campaigning on the issue of gay rights in his native India, Seth has been much more vocal, referring to section 377 of the Indian Penal Code as barbaric and archaic.