As a happening among the monastic orders of Islam, the shadow theatre screen would be set up in the monasteries, in the “tekes” and among the workshops of the artisans in the bazaar, who soon became fanatical supporters of the dervishes. The new institution of the bazaar, which did away with middlemen and merchants and introduced the idea of the producer himself carrying out the exchanges of his products,became the centre of the city throughout the East.

It established a relationship of equality and dialectics between the city and the countryside, dividing all the social groups of the Ottoman lands into three “classes” according to the position each individual occupied in theproduction process.

The first class was that of the “men of the sword”, consisting of the warrior tribes of the mountains and the desert, who were also pastoralists and traders.

Then there was the class of the “men of the hammer and sickle”, the artisans of the city and the larger villages, and those who tilled the fields of the plains. The third class was that of the “men of the pen”, who were the members of the Muslim and Christian hierarchy, staffing its legislative, judicial, diplomatic and later administrative services bureaucracy.

This classification was reflected on the screen of the Shadow Theatre. Karagiozis the gypsy became a symbol for the men of the hammer, and the artisans of the bazaar in general. Hadziavatis symbolized the literate, the men of the pen and Mustafa the Drunkard stood for the men of war, constantly intoxicated by their own strength. Karagiozis, was not Turkishas has often been said.

The concepts of Greece and Turkey did not exist at that time. Greek and Turkish were spoken alike in the Bazaar, and right from the time of his first appearance Karagiozis was performed in both vernacular languages: in the popular Greek andTurkish tongues.

He cultivated rational discussion, teaching the audience about the dialogue, the haggling, the lighting-sharp replies and the puns which could make anyone quick-witted.


It was this form of the Ottoman shadow theatre, born in Asia Minor and Constantinople, which dominated everywhere: throughout the East and the Balkans, and even in North Africa. From it, at a later date, national forms of the Shadow Theatre would emerge in Greece, Turkey , Romania, Georgia, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia , Algeria and even Europe.


E. Zachos Papazachariou
Professor, University Of Thessaly