Liturgical Enactment

Authored by: Nils Holger Petersen

The Routledge Research Companion to Early Drama and performance

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472421401
eBook ISBN: 9781315612898
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043669


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In this chapter, I will discuss what has generally been referred to as “liturgical drama” or “Latin music drama” within the medieval liturgy. The Latin sung texts which have given rise to this idea of a distinct genre included in the first place short dialogical texts found mainly in liturgical manuscripts since the tenth century, representing the biblical narrative(s) about the encounter of the three women with an angel at the empty grave of Jesus on Easter morning. But there are also other, among them large-scale, representations of various biblical narratives from the New as well as the Old Testament, and even – to a lesser extent – texts concerning extra-biblical narratives concerning saints, including the Virgin Mary. Along the way (at least since the early twelfth century) some of these texts mixed Latin and a vernacular language. The range of biblical and extra-biblical material used for “liturgical drama” seems gradually to have been extended so that, for instance, the Passion of Jesus became the basis for Passion plays only from the twelfth century onward. The surviving Easter liturgical dramas can be counted in many hundreds, whereas many other biblical and extra-biblical “liturgical dramas” have been preserved only in few or even unique versions. 1 Altogether, this a challenging – though rewarding – field for the researcher who needs to have skills in medieval liturgy, theology and music, as well as textual interpretation, working all the while with Latin originals.

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