The Liturgical Context of the Quem Queritis Trope


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

The practice of troping has always been associated with the medieval Latin ritual drama. Karl Young, for example, claimed that "the effectual beginnings of medieval religious drama" were to be found in this practice, and accordingly he devoted three chapters and sixty pages of his monumental study, The Drama of the Medieval Church; to it.1 It was Young, of course, who solidified the argument which has since become orthodox in literary histories, that the Quem queritis trope became the basis for the independent dramatic ceremony called the Visitatio Sepulchri. More recently, Professor O. B. Hardison, Jr. has presented a major challenge to Young's position. In his Christian Rite and Christian Drama in the Middle Ages,2 Hardison argues that the Quem queritis text, and consequently the liturgical drama itself, had its origins in the Easter liturgy proper rather than in an embellishment added to the rite. Both Young and Hardison marshal a good deal of evidence for their positions, and both afford us much insight into what we might call the prehistory of medieval drama. Yet, paradoxically, neither of them has been able to help us understand the Quem queritis trope itself. For Young the trope is simply the almost accidental beginning of a line of development that leads to the plays which are his prime concern. For Hardison, on the other hand, the combination of the Quem queritis text with the Easter introit represents only one of many possible uses of the dialogue, one which in his estimation has little to do with the drama of the medieval Church. The result of this neglect of the trope is that we actually know very little about the way it functioned within the broad context of the early medieval liturgy. As I hope to show, this lack of concern with the trope and its context has deprived us of important avenues of approach in understanding the medieval drama.

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