Article Title

Quem queritis in presepe: Christmas Drama or Christmas Liturgy?


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Drama, liturgy, dramatic liturgy, or liturgical drama? Like Polonius and his "tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral," we often like what we see but don't know how to pigeonhole it, perform it, or respond to it. What really was happening in the eleventh and twelfth centuries when two monks stood on one side of the alter and sang, "Quem queritis in presepe, pastores dicite?" and two others responded, "Salvatorem Christum dominum" before they began the principal Mass for Christmas Day? Was this trope a liturgical act, a ritual re-enactment of the Nativity for the spiritual benefit of the participants? Or did the trope function as drama, a miniature play with dialogue, characters, and stage setting? How did the trope relate to the Peur natus est nobis introit? How was the trope performed, and did the Quem queritis in presepe trope differ from the other Christmas introit tropes with regard to performance practice? An examination of the extant manuscripts in light of these questions reveals that throughout Europe, even in the expanded rituals from Rouen and Fleury, the Quem queritis in prespe dialogue was primarily liturgical rather than dramatic.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.