Royall Tyler (1757 – 1826)

Lawyer, jurist, educator, author and playwright, born in Boston, Massachusetts. He served in the American Revolution and then took up the practice of law, first in Maine, then in Boston and later in Vermont.

He volunteered for service in the force that quelled Shay’s Rebellion in 1787, the same year that his comedy The Contrast, became the first professionally produced play (in New York City) by an American. It included a character, Jonathan, the first of many similar no-nonsense Yankees who would appear on stage.

His comic opera, May Day in Town, was also produced in New York in 1787, and he wrote several other plays, some of them now lost. In 1791 he moved to Vermont where he eventually served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1807-13) and also as a professor of jurisprudence at the University of Vermont (1811-14). Meanwhile, he continued his literary career. Under the pen name of Spondee, he collaborated with Joseph Dennie to write satirical prose and verse for several publications. He also published a novel, The Algerine Captive (1797).

The University of Vermont’s Theatre Department is housed in a former gymnasium now known as The Royall Tyler Theatre, an architectural gem on the east side of the University Green.

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