Religious Drama and Ecclesiastical Reform in the Tenth Century


  • James H. Forse Bowling Green State University



Historians of theatre usually discuss the quem quaeritis Easter tropes and Hroswitha’s plays as discrete phenomena: debating whether or not the quem quaeritis represents a first step in the development of liturgical drama, discussing Hroswitha’s plays as the first Christian plays based on saints’ lives and not tied to the liturgy. The Easter tropes and the plays of Hroswitha may not be as unrelated as they appear. The tropes may be more than mere tropes, more than just extensions of Scripture woven into special liturgical services. They may be consciously scripted “playlets” aimed at purposes far beyond beautifying and intensifying the liturgy. These “playlets” may relate to, and stem from, issues of educational and ecclesiastical reform that marked the efforts of tenth- and early eleventh-century, Lotharingian/German clerics, who in turn were connected in a sort of network to ecclesiastical reformers in France and England. Hroswitha, personally and institutionally, was part of this network, and her plays may well be another phenomenon reflecting those policies. To demonstrate that premise, it is necessary to trace the network Lotharingian/German, French and English reformers, Hroswitha’s place within that network, and the common interests and policies of these reformers in matters of ecclesiastical reform.