The Quem Quaeritis Ceremony

When I was assigned to read The Quem Quaeritis Ceremony for Dr. Chester Scoville’s ENG330 class, I found a great deal of it to be both strange and wonderful. Its contents reveal that it was performed in song and was dramatized to highlight the religious significance of Easter morning. This ceremony was performed by the Quem Quaeritis, a troupe that later added on their own developments of the religious account.

The ceremony takes on the account of the three Marys and the angel protecting Christ’s empty tomb on Easter. When they enter after the third day following Christ’s crucifixion, the angel asks the anticipated question: “Quem Quaeritis?” which means “Who do you seek?” indicating the play’s constant message of unearthing revelations.

The Quem Quaeritis Ceremony is small, but it contains ideas that are larger than any of us. One might ponder its potential for theatrical use, rather than just a simple narrative. It is crucial to examine surviving medieval texts, dating back to the tenth century, for religious inquisition.

One strength of this text is its proficient stage presence. In ENG330, we were given a few minutes to watch a performance of The Quem Quaeritis Ceremony on YouTube. Theatre, when staged, is always longer than the reading of its text. The performance was long when it needed to be, and its dialogue was read with great distinction.

The only reason that The Quem Quaeritis Ceremony may not be a page-turner is because it isn’t—the text does not exceed one page of The Broadview Anthology of Medieval Drama. When first reading it, I had lost track of what I was supposed to be assessing. Instead, I wondered if I was picturing the ceremony in a different way than I was supposed to. Was I supposed to be reading a religious retelling or a tenth century play that resembled really good theatre?

Translated from Latin, it is obvious that the text has some theatrical potential. However, there are reasons to avoid a dramatized retelling of the ceremony. There is no climax or resolution, and the play doesn’t possess any real villains or heroes. There also doesn’t seem to be much stage direction. However, after reading it, it’s quite possible that it doesn’t need any.