The Turkish shadow play, Karagöz, is an important cultural heritage. It could be described as a microcosm, a cross-section of Ottoman culture and social structure combined into a harmonious and many-faceted totality. Many arts, aural and visual, join to form a spectacular mosaic: poetry, narrative, music, song, dance, colour and movement. All the elements of Ottoman culture and art are here: classical divan poetry, folk poetry, mystic poetry; classical music, folk music; art dancing and folk dancing; all the word plays of oral literature: nonsense rhymes, tongue-twisters, riddles, fables, imagery, wit, paradox, malapropisms, exaggeration, repartee, word play and so on. And above all, word play of a type that we might call ‘hoaxing’ continues throughout the performance. The first of these is equivocation, and the second is paronomasia or punning, using words with identical or similar sounds but different meanings. The rhythm in which both dialogue and action proceed create a form of expression that eve n those who do not know Turkish can appreciate. At the same time communication breakdowns between characters speaking different dialects add another dimension.
Just as the performance is a totality, so the Karagöz performer is an all-round and creative artist:
• First of all he is the creator or dramaturge. He composes all the elements of the scenario and all the dialogue. Since Karagöz is open and flexible in form, he can improvise, even during a performance, shortening, lengthening, or changing the order of the scenes, or incorporating topical event.
• He is the director of the performance, organising all its elements and the links between them, the tempo, and the rhytm.
• He is a musician. He sings songs, plays instrument such as tambourines and whistles, or selects and uses recordings of music, which in the past was played by a group of musicians.
• He is an actor. He plays dozens of characters. He adjusts his voice according to the characteristics of each one, pithing his voice higher or lower, and altering the stress patterns and tone. Men and women, the elderly and children, stutterers, nasal voices, and the opium eater who snores in the middle of every sentence are all distinguished. By means of their words he expresses their reactions, and makes the fıgures move accordingly.
• He is a choreographer. Whether in art dancing (çengi, köçek, kanto) or Anatolian folk dancing (halay, bar, zeybek) he ensures that the movements are in harmony with the music.
• If the fıgures are made by the Karagöz puppeteer, he is a plastic artist who designs, draws and paints them. He is also in this respect a craftsman who must prepare the leather in the correct way, make the fıgures transparent, cut them out, pierce the holes, and link the sections at their joints.
• He arranges the lighting.
• He organises the sound effects.
• He is also the manager of the performance. He inspects the venue, puts up the curtain, makes business contacts, organises moves, and so on.
Of course there are some Karagöz puppeteers who employ one or two helpers for all these. But although they take care of minor tasks, this is basically a one-man performance. These artists are also expert at some of the other traditional stage arts, like storytelling (meddahlık), puppetry (kuklacılık), illusionism (hokkabazlık) and folk drama (ortaoyunu).
As to the question of where, how and when the shadow play came to Turkey, this tradition does not exist in Central Asia and Iran, so it cannot have arrived from there. The shadow play is known to have been introduced to Turkey from Egypt in the l6th century, when there is indisputable evidence of its existence here. Evidence of its introduction from Egypt is equally incontrovertible, provided by a history of Egypt entitled Bedayiü’z-zuhbur fi vekaayiü’d-dühur by the Arab writer Mehmed b. Ahmad b. İlyasü’l-Hanefi. In several places in this work there are references to shadow plays. In one place he tells us that in 855 H. (1451) the Memluk sultan Çakmak (1438- 1 453) banned all shadow play performances (şuhus – hayalü’z-zıll) and commanded that the fıgures be burnt. In another he recalls that Sultan Melikü’n-Nasirü’d-din Muhammed amused himself watching the performances of the shadow player Ebü’l-Şer. He also relates that shadow plays were performed throughout the year, not only in the month of Ramadan, and that they were banned on 9 Zilhicce 924 H (12 December 1518) on the grounds that Ottoman soldiers robbed audiences returning from the performances, and kidnapped women and boys.
Where the part of this book pertinent to our subject is concerned, it relates that when the Ottoman sultan Selim II conquered Egypt in 1 S 1 7 he hanged the Memluk sultan Tumanbay II on 1 S April 1 S 17. The shadow player at the palace on the island of Rode in the Nile at Cize re-enacted the hanging of Tumanbay at the Züveyle Gate, including the fact that the rope snapped twice in the process. Sultan Selim was very pleased with the performance, and having presented the player with 80 gold pieces and an embroidered kaftan, said, ‘When we return to Istanbul, come with us, so that my son can see this play and be entertained.’ At that time his son Süleyman was 21 years old. Altogether six hundred Memluk artists accompanied the. sultan back to Istanbul, and returned home three years later.
On 20 June 1612 shadow players were brought from Egypt to perform at the wedding of Öküz Mehmet Paşa and the sultan’s sister Geverharı. Sultan Ahmet i watched one of these Egyptian players, Davüd el-Artar (Merıavi), in Edirne, as we learn from the memoirs of the play¬er himself.
Another reliable source confirming that the shadow play was introduced to Turkey from Egypt in the 10th century is a work by Ibn İyôs dating from the reign of Selim II.
Before going on to other evidence in support of this, ler us see whether there are any common attributes of the shadow play in Egypt and the 16th century Turkish shadow play. We know that the shadow play existed in Egypt in the 1 Ith, 12th and 13th centuries. We have the texts of three 13th century shadow plays written in verse and rhyming prose by Mehmed bin Danyal b. Yusuf around 1248. The first of these is entitled Tayfii’l-hayal. It begins, just as in Karagöz, with a song, thanks to the audience, a plea to God, and a prayer to the ruler. The hero of the play, a poor soldier named Visal, finds a wife through a matchmaker, but after the wedding lifts the bride’s veil to discover a horrifically ugly woman beneath it. Visal threatens both the matchmaker and the matchmaker’s husband, and decides to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca to be purified of his sins.
The second of Ibn Danyal’s plays is Acib ve Garib. This is not a specific succession of events. but instead various characters appear. The main characters are Garib and Acib who, just like Karagöz and Hacivat, have contrasting personalities. Garib is cunning and poor, and Acib is an eloquent talker who gives praise to Gad for creating wine and encourages beggars. Apart from these two, the other characters are a physician, snake charmer, surgeon, stargazer, magician. epileptic child, aerobat, monkey trainer, sword swallower, down, lion, elephant and bear trainer, and ebü’l-kıtat (the father of the cats’), who makes peace between cats and dogs. Garib brings the play to a dose. The cat and dog fight is mentioned in an account of the shadow play in the l0th century that we will see below. Evliya Çelebi also mentions a shadow play based around a cat and dog fight. (In the 17th century).
The third play by Ibn Danyal, El-Müteyyem, consists of cock, ram and bull fights organised by Müteyyem with his rivals in order to win the girl he loves. Earlier than this we find a long account of the shadow play in Egypt by the poet Ömer Ibnül-Fariz, in his Ta’iyyeti’l-Kübra: In the shadow plays described in this poem ships sail on the sea, armies battle on land and sea, camels, cavalry and infantry soldiers pass by, a fisherman throws his net and catches fish, sea monsters sink ships, and lions, birds and other wild animals attack their prey. Almost all of these later featured in l6th century shadow plays in Istanbul. Here too birds fly, wild animals fight one another, shipssail, and people are swallowed by a monster. Further proof of such shared features are picrures dis-covered by Paul Kahle thought to depict a 13th century shadow play. When we examine these picrures we find that the figures indude a lion, birds, induding a stork (we will see a stork in the narrative below), and ships.
After the introduction of the shadow play from Egypt, the Turks made their own creative contriburions, and a very colourful, animated and original new form emerged which was dissem-inared throughout the Ottoman Empire and jts sphere of influence. Sources deseribmg the early Turkish shadow playall dare from the festival of 1582 celebrating the circumcision of the royal princes, or dates dose to this. The most important document, which did not attracr the attentiorı of earlier researchers, and which gives the most extensive and detailed information about the shad¬ow play, is the Surname-i Hümayun, an illustrated account of the famous 1582 festivaL.
In numerous places in the Surname-i Hümayun we come across the term hayalbaz, which is not explained, presumably because everyone knew what it was. The term hayalbaz may have referred to a type of puppet or perhaps anather type of performing art, before it came to refer to the shad¬ow play. In a foreign source, although puppet plays are described in several places, the shadow play is described in onlyone place, as in the Surname-i Hümayun. This foreign eyewitness, although he gives a shorter description than the Turkish writer, had dearly seen the same per¬formance:
‘Sorneone brought a small wooden hut on six wheels, the stage, into the cerıtre. In front of this was a curtain of linen cloth, and inside severallights. Sorneone made the images move, casr¬ing reflections onro the curtain by means of the lighrs. For example, a cat ate a mouse, and a stark are a snake. As well as these, two people talked together using signs made with their fıngers like mutes, and similar things. One chased, anather ran, and so on. Watching an these would have been most delightful if the srrings pulling the images here and there had not been visible.’
There are many comman features between the two texts. For example, the Surname-i Hümaylbı description also mentions a cat and mouse, and a stork and snake. Both texts say that the images were moved by means of strirıgs. It is possible that the audience misrock the shadows of the sticks moving the figures for strings. Prologues involving animals were stili being shown at the end of the 19th century.
According ta the Surname-i Hiimayuıı, a prayer was recired ro the reigning sultan at the begin¬ning of the play, jusr as it was in Karagöz. Here birds fly, beasts of prey are shown in combar, lovers bend their heads before beauriful girls seated on ornate thrones, singers sing beautiful melodies, the wind snaps great galleys in half, people eat and drink at social gatherings, various flowers are shown growing in meadows, various fruits grow regardless of the season, and af ter the scenes of the cat and mouse and the stark and snake, a horrifying monster arrives and swallows up all the people.
In the ı 7th century Karagöz attained its familiar form. For this century there is extensive evi¬dence, induding the account by Evliya Çelebi and ochers by foreign travellers to Turkey. The most detailed information about the shadow play in the ı 7th century is provided by Evliya Çelebi. it is in his book that we find the names Karagöz and Hacivat mentioned for the first time, (he subjects and characteristics of the plays, the poems which were recited, and the famous shad¬ow players of the age.
A much debated subject is whether Karagöz and his friend Hacivat were real people. These rwo protagonists of the shadow play became so ensconced in the hearts of the people that they wished to envisage them as people who had really lived, and various stories were told about the m (hat seemed to prove this. According to one, of these Hacivat was a stonemasçn and Karagöz a blacksmith during the reign of Sultan Orhan in the early ı4th century. While the pair were work¬ing on the construction of a mosgue in Bursa they distracted the other workers with their witty repartee, so that the work fell behind schedule and the sultan ordered their execution.
The second of the four stories is related by Evliya Çelebi, who says that Efelioğlu Hacı Eyvad, known as Yorkça Halil, was a well-known character who travelled to and fro between Mecca and Bursa in the Seljuk period, and that during one of these journeys he was killed by bandits. Karagöz, meanwhile, was Kıpti Sofyozlu Bali Çelebi from Kırk Kilise (today’s Kırklareli) ne ar Edirne, and groom to the Emperor Corıstantine in IstanbuL. The two would meet once a year when the emperor senr Karagöz to the Seljuk sultan Alaeddin. The shadow players enacted their con¬versations.
To return to the first version of the story, it is related that a person called Şeyh Kuşteri enact¬ed Karagöz and Hacivat as a shadow play for the sultan, who had regretted having ordered their execurion. Different sources give contradicrory information abour the identity of Şeyh Küşreri, where he came from and when he lived. Evliya Çelebi mentions him not in connection with Karagöz bm with music, describing him as the inventor of a wind insrrurnent called kamış-ı miz¬mar. The most implausible aspect of the story set in Bursa is that Sultan Orhan should have exe¬cuted Karagöz and Hacivat for their witty and arnusing conversation, because the Ottoman sul¬tan s always invited such people to rheir court to erıtertain them. If Sultan Orhan had heard abour two people so eloquent as to delay construction of a mosque, he would certainly have taken this course, and made them his constant companions. Nevertheless, this story resulted in Şeyh Kuşteri being adopted as the patron saint of Karagöz puppeteers.
Borh the people of Bursa and those of Kırklareli daim that the Karagöz shadow play origi¬nated in their own provinces. However, even if the stories were true, proving that Karagöz and Hacivat had been real people, this would not prove that the shadow play itself and its technique had eriginared in Turkey. Not only is there no record at all of the shadow play existing in Ottoman Turkey at the periods in question, but no reference to the names of either Karagöz or Hacivar. Both Bursa and Kırklareli have embraced Karagöz with enthusiasm, and a huge statue of Karagöz has been erected in a square in the city of Kırklareli. I myself attended the inaugura¬tion ceremony and fılmed it on video. Quite likely nothing of the kind has ever occurred in any other country. In Bursa there is a menumenral tornb which has now been renovated.
it is admirable that these two provinces should feel so possessive abour Karagöz. If onlyall our provinces felt similady about our other popular folk heros. Istanbul, which is the real birth place of the Karagöz shadow play, looks down on it as a primitive form of entertainment.
What is now certain from the documents i have cited here, and others which i have been unable to mention in the limited compass of this artiele, is that the shadow play arrived from Egypt in the l ôth century. About its earlier history there are various theories. According to same ir was brought by gypsies from India, or by Jews who emigrated to Turkey from Spain in the 15th century and brought with them many of our traditional performance arts, such as puppets, elowns, illusiorıists and the ortaoyunu. And there are other differentzheories. Although there may be same elements of truth in all of them, this do es not change the fact that it arrived in Turkey from Egypt.
How the shadow play arrived in Egypt is anather question. There is a rich and deep-rooted shadow play tradition in Asia, particularly in Chirıa, India and Indonesia. Moreover, in China and India the shadow play figures are made of semitransparent leather, giving them a eloser affinity to the Turkish shadow play. However, it is proven beyond doubt that the shadow play technique round its way to Egypt from Java, whose shadow play is the most ancient in all Asia. The famous ~ foroccan traveller Ibn Battüra went to Java in 1345. Long before him, from the 7 th to l Oth cerı¬ruries, Arab merchants established colonies on the coasts of southeast Asia, simultaneously engag¬ing in trade and disseminating Islam. Epics ofIslamic origin like the Hamzaname were introduced by rhern into the culture of southeast Asia, and in this process of cultural exchange, the Java shad¬ow play was brought to Egypt. In the course of my research I have rıored many common features berweerı the shadow plays of Java and Turkey, all excepting the transparency of the figures. Nar were the figures of the Memluk shadow play transparent. This was an innovation in the Turkish shadow play which occurred in the 17th century. Having taken its basic form in the ı 7th centu¬ry, Karagöz went on to develop over later centuries, becoming the best loved performance art among the Turks.
There are two crucial aspects of the Karagöz plays that cause difficulty. One of these is social and political criticism and satire, and the other is its ribaldry. These were factors in the demise of Karagöz, hastened by the introduction of western st yle theatre.
Researchers into Karagöz used to assume that it was confined within certain boundaries. So much so, that same writers asserted Karagöz could not easily extend beyand these boundaries, and that the plays avoided criticism of clerics and statesmen, state and government. Yet in fact Karagöz is a flexible and versatile form that can adapt itself to any event, any purpose and any subject. What is more, Karagöz enjoyed his own immunity. Even in their fetvas, theologians found excuses for tolerating him when he violated Islamic traditions and practices, granting him an explicit area of inviolability. Within this area it was unrhinkable that he should not have mocked clerics and statesmen. or commented on political affairs, in view of his temperament and disposition. Yet definite proof of this at first proved elusive, despite extensive searching. Most of our knowledge of the Karagöz plays dated from the Iate 19th century, which was a period under the oppressive rule of Sultan Abdülhamid II, when free speech was suppressed. Prior to this Turkish sources gaye very Iittle information, while foreigners dwelt mosdy on the lewd and shameless nature of Karagöz.
Finally my researchhas revealed the most important evidence of Karagöz having targeted statesmen and state affairs, and engaged in political satire. Wanda, a Frenchman who visited Turkey between 1820 and 1870, kept dose track of political developments in the country and was dosely acquairıted with the leading statesmen of the period. In the seetion of this book devot¬ed to Karagöz, it is the political angle that he emphasises. Moreover, the fact that Wanda ci tes several examples adds convicrion to his account. He begins by explaining that the Karagöz plays consist of satire which is always directed at the highest state officials, their attitudes, habits and behaviour, and says that even the sultan cannot escape his sharp wounding tongue, Wanda goes on to relate a political incident that took place during the early part of the reign of Sultan Mahmud II, when Gürcü Mehmed Reşid Paşa was both vezir and commander-in-chief. The paşa had a soldierly temperament, and made everybody tremble. He defended Çumla in 1827 and 1828, and with his Nekrosof (or Ihnat) Kazaks encountered the Egyptian army commanded by İbrahim Paşa at Konya. The Kazaks, with their swords and horses, were the most viral force under the command of Resid Paşa, but when the horses were srarrled and fled, he found himself alone with three Kazaks. Two of the Kazaks were killed in the ensuing fighting, and the third Kazak and the paşa resisted the enemy for eight days without food. When Reşid Paşa was on the point of dying, he gave his sword to the Kazak Ivan Manazow to take to the sultan. Manazow fulfilled this duty, and a year af ter this incidene Reşid Paşa figured in a Karagöz play.
Having explained that it is unusual to hear pleasant things about a statesman voiced by Karagöz, Wanda goes on to deseribe another play. In this a good-looking young man consults Karagöz ab om what profession he should choose. Af ter thinking a little, Karagöz laughs and says he should join the navy, where he will probably be made an admiral, since he knows nothing at all. Soon afterwards the young man appears in admiral’s dress and relates what happened in his new profession: ‘I boarded my ship and sailed along, then anchored in front of the sultarı’s palace in Dolmabahçe. I set out again and sailed in this way back and forth until i became a seasoned sailor like the English. There were many rats on the three-deck Mahmudiye, with its admiral’s pen¬nant, and fırst they ate up all the food, then gnawed the ship’s iron bars and timbers. Just as the ship was about to sink I brought twelve English dogs, which destroyed the enemy, and so saved the crew from hunger and the ship from sinking. The sultan heard about this victory of mine and gaye me his sister in marriage.’ This is a parody on the true story of the sultan’s son-irı-law Laz Mehmed Ali Paşa.
In arıother performance seen by Wanda, the sexual perversion of Topal H üsrev Paşa and his passion for boys is treated quite openly. The governmem of Sultan Abdülaziz during the early years of his reign, his wanderings around the city, and his favouring Ziya Beyand Muhtar Bey over the old experienced statesmen were apparently the topical subjects of the day.
Karagöz cruelly ridiculed the eldedy statesmen, including Kıbrıslı Mehmed Paşa, who was portrayed flapping his arms like a windmill and shouting at the top of his voice that he knew who the thieves were and how they had fılled their pockets. Meanwhile an eldedy imam brings his wife, brother-in-law and son-in-law before the paşa, and it is discovered that all their pockets are fılled to the brim with gold, silver and banknotes. This lampoon pushed the indulgence of the authorities tOO far, and Karagöz was barmed from satirising state dignitaries and eminem figures under threat of heavy penalties. Wanda says that af ter this Karagöz lost its interest, and was reduced to a poirıtless, coarse and vulgar comedy.
Arıother foreign witness confirms that Karagöz plays corısisted of political satire. ‘In Turkey Karagöz is a representative of unlimited freedom; a vaudeville artist who defies censorship, and an irrepressible, intractable newspaper. His person is sacrosanct and his acrions inviolate. Apart from the sultan there is no one in the empire who can escape his satirical arterıtion: he judges the Grand Vezir, condemns him and imprisons him in Yedikule Dungeon; he embarrasses foreign ambassadors; he inveighs against the admirals of the Black Sea and the general s of the Crirnea. In so doing he is applauded by the common people and rolcrared by the goverrımenr.’
Several foreign observers mention the political aspect of Karagöz. One says that because Karagöz was the spokesman for malconrerıts he was barmed or only permitted to perform in cer¬tain places. Arıother commenrs that the dialogue of the Karagöz plays was sometimes humorous and witty, sometimes subversive and seditious. He says that they even cast slurs on the sultan and his vezirs. Alater observer discusses this subject at Ierıgrh, dedaring that Karagöz took no notice of censorship and enjoyed limitless irnrnunity, so much so; that the newspapers of Europe could not march him for vituperation, and even in countries like America, England and France, peliri¬cal condemnation was more tightly corıtrolled; whereas in Turkey, where there was absolutist rule, Karagöz resembled an unruly, uncontrollable daily newspaper, which moreover, being oral rather than written, presented a greater threat; and that he attacked everyone apart from the revered Abdülmecid. The writer goes on to say that in August 1854 Karagöz denounced the delaying tactics of the British and French admİrals with a ceaseless barrage of s~inging comments, that he opposed the adrnirals’ tactics and furiously admonished them to command their ships ber¬ter. According to the same observer, the Grand Vezir was depicted in a shadow play, this exalted statesman being put on trial as if he were an infidel, and when he failed to defend himself satis¬factorily before the judge, he was thrown into Yedikule Dungeons. Af ter describing Karagöz as a combination of Boccacio, Rabelais, Petrorıe, Marfario and Harlequin, he says that in any other counrry, the writer of just a single line of what Karagöz had said would have resulred in arrest or exile, bur that nothing at all happened to Karagöz.
Another foreign observer also remarked that Karagöz spared no one in his harangues, whether paşa, ulerna, dervish, banker, or merchant, but that everyone of every class and every occupation made their appearance on the curtain, each identified by their distinctive characteristics, and were sometimes obliged to listen to very harsh truths. Gerard de Nerval explains that as the spokesman of the common people Karagöz ericicised the activities of people of secondary authority, and in doing so defied the stake, the axe and the gallows. This political satire, whether by Karagöz or the ortaoyunu, came to an end during the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz.
Apart from political satire, the second liberty enjoyed by Karagöz was his ribaldry, as alteady rnenrioned. Local sources are silent on this subject; and provide little information abour Karagöz in general, apan from the odd passing reference or the names of one or two Karagöz puppeteers. On the other hand, many of the foreigners who visited Turkey emphasised the lewd character of the Karagöz plays. G. A. Olivier, Sevin -who says that Karagöz appeared on the screen with his male organ showing, Gerard de Nerval, Rolland- who considered the obscenity of Karagöz so excessive that it would be the downfall of the Turks, Theophile Gauthier, Edmondo de Amicis, and many more. One witness was asrounded that there was no censorship of Karagöz, and that women and children were allowed to watch Karagöz, phallus and alL.
When Wanda attended a Karagöz performance of this type, he asked an elderly Turk who had brought two little girls with him how he could allow children to see such shameless scenes, and received the following answer: ‘Let them learn; in the end they will know about all this; rather than leave them in ignorance, it is betrer that they krıow.’
An English rtayeller who gives a long detailed account of a Karagöz performance which he saw in Beyazıt, Istanbul, in 1894, says that in one scene a Turkish and a foreign woman were shown flirring with someone wearing a fez -presumably Çelebi- when the foreign wornarı’s hus¬band turned up. There ensued a fight between the lover and the husband, at the end of which the lover and the two women came to an understanding. Just at that moment, however, Karagöz and Hacivat whisked the lover away and proceeded to perform a scene with the ladies that the writer was embarrassed to record, even in Latin.
Some researchers, determined to admit no stairı on Karagöz’s innocence, have asserted that there could not have been any lewdness in Karagöz; that these are the fallacious conclusions of for-eign travellers who did not understand the Karagöz performances that they saw on street corners and in marketplaces. The same researchers claim that the true meaning of Karagöz is philosoph¬ical and mystical, and could not have conrained any vulgarity. But theyare unable to provide any proof of this. Mystical meaning, apart from the gazels recited at the beginning, is not to be found in any Karagöz play. This is merely an attempt to perperuare the inviolability of Karagöz. If the subjecrs and dialogue of Karagöz plays are examined, theyare found to include raids on houses where adultery is being committed, sexual intrigue, marrying two women, lesbianism, and other sexual perversions. No trace of mysticism has ever been found in any accounts of Karagöz plays. The gazels are independent of the play, and do not relate to a particular see ne having educational value or mystical meaning. Old Arab and Persian poets and thinkers referred to the educational aspect and symbolic meaning of puppets and shadow plays, perhaps under the influence of Greek and Roman writers who wrote of such analogies and connotations. Those researchers who are so concerned to preserve the digrıity of Karagöz and reluctant to recognise it as folk drama, for the same reasons refuse to accept that the phallus was an inextricable appendage of Karagöz figures. Yet the phallus, as a relic of fertility rites, is an inseparable feature of humorous mime and Ortaç, the comedies of Aristophanes, and folk drama, such as the commedia dell’arre. So why should it be absent from Karagöz, which is also folk drama?
Evliya Çelebi writes in his account of Karagöz, ‘ … and the young Nigar entered the baths, and Gazi Boşnak raided them, and tying twine to the kir of Karagöz led him out of the bath .. .’ Kır is the male organ. Similarly we find the following line by the poet Kanı:
Like Karagoz’s kır he rises and shows bimself.
We know that Karagöz of ten appeared with a phallus, an image described as Toramanlı Karagöz (Karagöz of the Cock) or Zekerli Karagöz (Karagöz with a Perıis), and the re were also plays which made reference to lesbianism and other types of sexual perversion.
The reaction of the authorities to the political satire and obscenity of Karagöz in the ı 9th cen¬tury can be attributed in part to the introduction of western theatre, and resulted in increasing regulation of Karagöz. The press also began to eriticise the ortaoyunu, while intellecruals opposed both equally. Namık Kemal described them as ‘schools of imrnorality’ and ‘schools of scandal,’ and advised that people go to the theatre instead.
Karagöz was not only widespread in Turkey, but found a foothold in many Islamic countries and in the Balkans. In this way the shadow play, which the Turks had adopted from elsewhere, evolved with the addition of their creativity, tastes and artistic expression, and spread through¬out the Ottornan Empire and its sphere of influence. Although the shadow play had arrived in Turkey from Egypt originally, in its new guise it was reintroduced to Egypt from Turkey. Karagöz plays were performed in Egypt in Turkish until recent times. Both the plays and their main character became known as Aragöz, and I have included a picture of Aragöz and his wife as an example. In this picture Aragöz resembles the character İbiş of our tuluat (improvisatorial the¬atre) and hand puppet plays.
The Karagöz of Syria displays an even more conspicuous Turkish influence. Here Karagöz was performed in Damascus, Beirut, Aleppo, Haifa and Jerusalem. The Turkish influence in North Africa was if anything more considerable. In Turıisia, in particular, most of the performances were in Turkish, and not only the pıotagonists Karagöz and Hacivat, but many of the other characters, such as Tiryaki (the Opium Addict), Kekeme (the Stutterer), the Arab, the Jew, the Frank, Kabakçı, Çelebi (the Gentleman), Sarhoş or Deli Bekir (the Drunkard) and the women characters are very similar. And not only the characrers, but the structure of the plays, the humour and the subjects resemble those of Turkey.
The Turkish Karagöz also influenced the Balkan countries. We know that Karagöz was per-formed in Yugoslavia, particularly in the Turkish areas. It influenced Romania to such an extent that Caraghios entered Romanian dictionaries as a term meaning comicalar ridiculous. Turkish influence can also be see n in Romanian puppet theatre. The Turkish Karagöz was performed par¬ticularly at court. We know that Karagöz was intıoduced to Bulgaria. But of all these countries the one where Karagöz exerted the most pıofound influence was Greece. The Greek Karaghiozis is in every respect a variatian on the Turkish Karagöz.
In puppet theatre, Karagöz and ortaoyunu, the most distirıctive aspect of the characters is that theyare ‘srereotypes;’ fixed and immutable generalisations. They have no power to follow their own irıclinariorıs, and so constantly repeat themselves. We expect thern to display particular behaviour in particular sitnations. There is the same imrnurabiliry in their relations. Their per¬sonalities have been erased, are not set in a particular time, and they have no dear past or future. Everıts do not alter them or experiences leave a trace; they do not grow old, and time passes by without touching them. Specific faults and traits are amplified in a single character.
Outward physical appearance is an important mirror of their inner beirıg. These types are gen¬eralised and abstract, unlike those which occur once in drama and cannot be repeated. This is achieved by simplification and exaggeration, or by comparison and generalisation. They do not attempt to ereare any illusion of being alive. We find such type-casting ip mime, in commedia dell’arre, in melodrama, in tuluat, and today in cowboy films.
Characrerisariorı in Karagöz and ortaoyunu is mainly based on antithesis and repetition. Eacb character constantly repeats particular behaviour, so creating continual conrrasts berweerı them. As in all theatrical characters, the definition and identification of the character is carried out by four means:
1. Outward appearance and features,
2.Voice and manner of speaking,
3.Behaviour and actions,
4.Opinions expressed by others about a character.
Let us enlarge on each of these by turn:
1. The ourward appearance and physical features of the characters are important. First of all there is their costume. In plays particular people always dress in a particular way. This costume reflects their place of origin, social class, habits, occupations and other characteristics. The drurık¬ard holds a bottle, Tuzsuz a knife, Tiryaki an opium pipe, Kabadayı (the Bully) a pistol, Kastamonulu an axe, Laz a kemençe (Black Sea fiddle). Some of rhern are lame, some hunch¬backed, some paralysed, some tall like Kastamonulu, others midgets like Beberuhi.
Other identifying signs for each character are particular musical themes, songs or danees. Before the characrer even appears on the curtain or on stage, the melody that is played, the song which is sung, the dance which is performed, or the poem which is recited reveals who is com¬ing. Kayserili performs a spoon dance, Rumeli a sirto, the Black Sea character aharan and the Kurd a bar. The European, known as Balama or Frenk, does a polka, hora or a guadrille. Same characters even have a specific way and rhythm of walking. Pişekar walks to the ‘dum tek tek dum tek’ rhythm of the kudilm (double drum), while the Külhanbeyi (bully) walks sideways.
2. Every character has particular words that they freguently use. The Greek says vre, the Albanian mori, and the Persian beli for yes or özilm for T. The Arab says ayva.to mean yes, the Rumelian baçan or a be, the Kurd uy babo, and the Armenian IOfgeya. There are same characters who do norhing but repeat the same word, such as Rasgele, Tevtatı Kütüpati and Dediki, who keep repeating their own names.
It may be said that the way the characters talk is the most important means of defining them. Both Karagöz and ortaoyunu consist not so much of actiorı and plot as of plays on words, so the dialogue is of central iniportance. Indeed, one name for ortaoyunu is meydan-ı silhan (place of words). Characters fram various parrs of the empire spoke Turkish with distinctive accents, and these served both as a source of amusement by their contrast with standard Turkish, and as a means of idenrifying them. What is standard idiomatic Turkish’ It is Istanbul Turkish; but because it is pretentious, elaborate and elirist, it creates contrast and gives rise to rnisunderstand¬ing. Since the speech of every person is a source of misunderstanding for Karagöz or Kavuklu, we must regard standard Turkish as that of the common people of IstanbuL. When Karagöz is per formed in the provinces, the dialect of each place becomes the accepted standard, and the Istanbul accent appears ridiculous in comparison.
It can be said that the most significant aspect and target of Karagöz and the ortaoyunu is mis¬understanding between the various ethnic groups in the society, and the dissension which arises from this, used as an element of comedy. Misunderstanding may also arise from class differences, speech impediments such as stuttering and nasalisation, slow witredness or srupidity. Dialects are not only indicated by accent and grammatical differences, but by the tone and pitch of voice, speed or slowness of speech, and changes in speed.
3. The behaviour, reactions and attitudes of the characters under particular circumstances also define their personalities. Their behaviour is predetermined according to their typecast characters. We know that the Jew will immediately be startled and afraid when something happens, and bar¬gain fiercely when buying anything, and that Tiryaki will doze off in the middle of talking and begin to snore. The women are always scheming and deceitful, the Laz always impetuous and loquacious; and similar conventions apply to the behaviour of other characters.
4. We also learn to recognise the characters through the opiniorıs of them expressed by oth¬ers. Pisekar talks about Kavuklu, and Hacivar about Karagöz. Characters like Pisekar and Hacivat, who are knowledgeable about human beings, inform us about various characters. Sometimes the information given by other characters is deliberately misleading or inadvertently erroneous, and in these cases too we gain indirect knowledge of the characters theyare talking about. i have Iisred the characters below according to the attributes they share, but this should not be taken as a proper dassification. For example, Tiryaki, whom i place among those who speak Istanbul Turkish, might egually be dassed with those with health problems or defects, on account of his opium addictiorı. The Armenian may be dassified both as an non-Moslem, as here, or alter-natively among the provincial characters. The list below has been drawn up only as a convenient guide to the cast of characters in the Karagöz shadow play:
1) Main characters: Karagöz, Hacivat
2) Women: known as Zenne.
3) Speakers of Istanbul Turkish: Çelebi, Tiryaki, Beberuhi, Matiz
4) Provincial characters: Laz, Kastamonulu, Kayserili, Eğinli, Harputlu, Kurd.
5) Characters from outside Anatolia: Muhacir (the Immigrant, from Rumelia), the Albanian, the Arab, the Persian,
6) Non-Muslim characters: the Greek, the Frank, the Armenian, the Jew.
7) Characters with physical or mental defects: the Stutrerer, the Hunchback, the Hımhırn (who speaks through his nose), the Cripple, the Madman, the Cannabis Addict, the DeafMan, the Idiot (als O known as Denyo).
8) Bullies and drunks: Efe, Zeybek, Matiz, Tuzsuz, Sarhoş, Külhanbeyi.
9) Entertainers: Köçek dancer (male), Çengi dancer (fernale), Singer, Magician, Aerobat, Reveller, Illusionist, Musician.
10) Supernatural characters: Wizard, Cazülar [Witches}, Djins, Demons. ll) Various occasional secondary characters and children.
Does all this suffice to demonstrate that Karagöz is a culrural heritage of great importance?
If anyon e thinks it is not enough, then a look at the books and other rnaterial on the subject will surely go some way to illuminating the past of Karagöz, which today has all resemblance tos its original form.