Karagöz and Hacivat
The shadow play was the most important entertainment of the Ottoman period and was widely performed for the public and in private houses between the 17th and 19th centuries particularly during Ramazan, and at circumcision, feast festivals, coffee houses and even in gardens.
These 35-40 cm. puppets made of camel or cow skin are colored and semi-transparent, with jointed limbs. Light from a lamp behind the stage reflects their images onto the muslin curtain, around which is a border of floral material. This curtain is known as the ayna (mirror) and the light as a sem'a (candle). The latter consists of an oil lamp with a wick of cotton or string soaked in beeswax. There is just one puppeteer, known as Hayali (imaginary), assisted by an apprentice, who installs the curtain and brings the puppets in order of appearance.
Karagöz, known for addressing social events of the period, and for dishing out critisis, were generally played in Istanbul. Next they spread throughout Anatolia by the artists going on tours. Today, Karagöz is played in hotels and restaurants catering to tourists and for child audiences, without the risky jokes. With technological advances in visual entertainment, Karagöz has essentially been relegated to museum exhibitions.
The main characters of the play are Karagöz and Hacivat. Karagöz represents the public's morals and common sense, the ordinary man in the street, and is straightforward and reliable. He is almost illiterate; usually unemployed and embarks on money earning projects that never work. He speaks as he is. Hacivat is educated in a Moslem theology school; speaks Ottoman Turkish and uses poetical and literary language.
The other characters are the drunkard Tuzsuz Deli Bekir (Saltiness Crazy Bekir) who carries a wine bottle, Uzun Efe (Tall Efe) with his long neck, Kambur Tiryaki (Humpback Addict) the opium addict with his pipe, Altı Karış Beberuhi (Six Span Beberuhi) the eccentric dwarf, the half-witted Denyo, the spendthrift Civan, and Nigar, who spends her time chasing men.
The subjects of Karagöz plays are always humorous. Double meanings, exaggerations, verbal plays, imitating accents are all part of the comedy. The plays are full of satire and irony often reaching state administrators with a humorous style. There is always a fight at some point in the play.
The play always ends with an argument between Karagöz and Hacivat. Finally apologies are made -“May our misbehavior be forgiven!” - for errors or insults the play may have contained.Then the next show is announced.
A comprehensive website showing all characters, sections and techniques of the play prepared by Mr. Emin Şenyer is given below should you are interested.
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