Karagöz is a Turkish shadow play which involves the moving of “puppets” on a white curtain by reflecting light behind them. The play is named after its main character “Karagöz”. It has a comedy subject filled with funny elements such as double meanings, exaggerations, verbal plays and imitating accents. According to Turkish Folk History, Karagöz Play was begun in Bursa. To know about the show, one should visit Karagozevi at Cekirge, Bursa. It is the only place where Karagoz play is staged even today.
Techniques Employed in the Show
The stage is separated from the viewers by means of a white screen. The operators provide animation to the puppets by holding it against the screen. An olive oil lamp acts as the light source. As the screen diffuses the light, it shines through the multicolored transparent material and the puppet appears like a stained glass. The puppets are the key components of the show. They are made of camel hide and look flat, clean-cut silhouettes in color. Vegetable dyes are used to make the colors of the puppet. The major colors include: tender blue, deep purple, leaf green, olive green, red crimson, terracotta, brown and yellow. While making the puppets, articulation is given only between the head and body whereas the body below the neck makes a single piece. Average size of the puppet is about 12 inches.
Characters of the Play
Karagoz and Hacivat are the two main characters of the play. In Turkish, Karagoz means “black-eye”. He has a round face, pug nose, bald head, large black pupil and thick curly black beard. He often gets his turban knocked off exposing his bald head which invokes laughter. Hacivat is Karagoz’s friend and he is educated and pompous. Secondary characters include dwarfs, dancing girls, children, professionals, servants, witches, provincials, colonials and foreigners.
Parts of the Turkish Shadow Theatre
The show is played in three parts:
- Mukaddime (Prologue or Introduction)
- Muhavere (dialogue)
- Fasil (main plot).
Before the play begins, an introductory picture called gostermelik is pinned to the screen and stays there for a while. With the commencement of the play, the gostermelik vanishes to the shrill sound of a whistle called nareke. In the prologue, Hacivat sings a song called Semai. He introduces himself through a song called Gazel. He says that it is not just a play but it teaches several life lessons. He adds that he is in search of a humorous friend who can speak Arabic or Persian and has knowledge of science and arts. Karagoz appears on the screen and after a short while he gets bored of Hacivat’s speeches. The introductory part ends with an argument between the two. Each time Hacivat appears after this, he receives a big blow from Karagoz and promptly disappears from the screen.
Muhavare involves a battle of wit between Hacivat and Karagoz. The characteristic traits of the two are highlighted here. Muhavare is full of dialogues that depict the dichotomy between the two characters. Fasil unfolds the main story where all the secondary characters appear but only Karagoz and Hacivat stays till last. The concluding part contains an argument between the two. Hacivats shouts, “You have brought the curtain down, you have ruined it!” to which Karagoz replies, “May my transgressions be forgiven.” And that is the end of the play.
Karagoz play was very popular at the time of the Ottoman Empire. These days, the Karagoz puppet show is studied only by a very few artists through a course conducted on it by the Presidency of Turkey National Center of International Puppet and Shadow Play Union (UNIMA) and the Ministry of Culture. It lies in the hands of folk culture enthusiasts to preserve the puppet show and keep it going generation after generation.
- And, MetinKaragoz: Turkish Shadow Theater with an Appendix on the History of Turkish Puppet Theater 3rd ed. Istanbul: Dost Publications. 1987
- Halman, Talat S. The Turkish Muse Views and Reviews. New York: Syracuse University Press. 2006
- Tietze, Andreas. The Turkish Shadow Theatre and the Puppet Collection of the L.A. Mayer Memorial Foundation. Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag. 1977.