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Quem queritis in presepe: Christmas Drama or Christmas Liturgy? Jam es M. Gibson Drama, liturgy, dramatic liturgy, or liturgical drama? Like Polonius and his “tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoralcomical , historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comicalhistorical -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 altar 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 minia­ ture play with dialogue, characters, and stage setting? How did the trope relate to the Puer 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 presepe dialogue was primarily liturgical rather than dramatic. The simple Quem queritis in presepe trope occurs with little or no variation in twenty-nine tropers or gradual-tropers, three processionals, and two breviaries. In addition to these texts, eight ordinaries either mention the trope or describe its per­ formance. Seven other manuscripts include additions to the trope dialogue or significant alterations in the text and music. These changes appear in five ordinaries, one gradual, and one liturgical playbook. Altogether, forty-nine extant manuscripts contain part or all of the Quem queritis in presepe dialogue. 343 344 Comparative Drama Few of these tropers give any performance instructions. Only one of the surviving ordinaries gives the complete text, and none of the ordinaries includes the music. Only at Yich and Rouen do both the music and the performance directions still exist. Enough manuscripts with text, music, and rubrics do remain, nevertheless, to permit an evaluation of the trope within its liturgical context. The traditional view of the Quern queritis in presepe trope as incipient drama may be illustrated by Karl Young’s analysis of the following eleventh-century text from the monastery of St. Benedict at Mantual (see Example 1 on the following page). Calling attention to the division of parts between the cantor and choir, Young remarks, “In such a division of parts one may, perhaps, recognize a slight advance toward drama. The cantor’s addressing the chorus as ‘Pastores,’ and his receiving their reply, seem to point the way directly to the use of these sentences in true drama.”2 Young’s a priori assumption that the trope is an embryonic drama precludes any further investigation of the ritual nature of the trope. Here and in The Drama of the Medieval Church each new trope phrase or liturgical rubric is seen only as another step toward the emergence of drama. The tropes are analyzed in terms of dramatic characteristics such as dialogue, impersonation, staging, and costuming. The per­ formances are examined for dramatic suitability. When we return to the manuscript, however, Young’s brief comment raises a host of questions. Is the text, in fact, arranged dramatically? Did the members of the choir think of themselves as impersonating shepherds when the cantor addressed them as pastores? Did this performance differ from that of other tropes for the same introit at the Mantua monastery? How did this eleventh-century text in Mantua influence the later liturgical drama? In order to discuss this text and to understand how the monks at Mantua in the eleventh century actually perceived it, we must examine the liturgical context and normal perfor­ mance practice of the trope. The manuscript contains six tropes for the Puer natus est introit: Hodie cantandus est (fol. 4V ), Ecce adest (fol. 5r), Hodie saluator mundi (fols. 5r-5v), Hodie exultent (fol. 5V ), Quern queritis in presepe (fols. 5v-6r), and Hodie natus est (fol 6r). Two additional tropes, Quern nasci mundi (fol. 8r) and Quod prisco uates (fols. 8r...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 343-365
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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