Karagoz ( meaning blackeye in Turkish ) and Hacivat ( shortened in time from "Haci Cevat" meaning 'Cevat the Pilgrim',and also sometimes written as Hacivad ) are the lead characters of the traditional Turkish shadow play, popularized during the Ottoman period. The central theme of the plays are the contrasting interaction between the two main characters. They are perfect foils of each other: Karag�z represents the illiterate but straightforward public, whereas Hacivat belongs to the educated class, speaking Ottoman Turkish and using a poetical and literary language. him (Farazi Kosmos). Although Karag�z has definitely been intended to be the more popular character with the Turkish peasantry, Hacivat is always the one with a level head. Though Karag�z always outdoes Hacivat�s superior education with his �native wit,� he is also very impulsive and his never-ending deluge of get-rich-quick schemes always results in failure. Hacivat continually attempts to �domesticate� Karag�z, but never makes progress. According to Turkish dramaturge K�rl�, Hacivat emphasizes the upper body with his refined manners and aloof disposition, while Karag�z is more representational of �the lower body with eating, cursing, defecation and the phallus". Karag�z-Hacivat plays are especially associated with Ramadan. Until the rise of radio and film, it was one of the most popular forms of entertainment in Turkey. It survives today mainly in a toned-down form intended for audiences of children.
When the plays were first performed is unclear. Some believe that the first Karag�z-Hacivat play was performed for Sultan Selim I ( reigned 1512�1520 ) in Egypt after his conquest of the country in 1517, but 17th century writer Evliya �elebi stated that it had been performed in the Ottoman palace as early as the reign of Bayezid I ( reigned 1389�1402 ). In the 16th century, Ottoman Grand Mufti Mehmet Ebussuud el-�madi issued a celebrated opinion allowing the performance of Karag�z plays.
According to one Turkish legend, the first performance of karag�z occurred when a lowly commoner visited the sultan. Rather than simply making a complaint, as most commoners did, he put on a short puppet show to tell a tale about the sultan�s corrupt officials. The myth states that the sultan was delighted by the performance so much that he appointed the puppeteer as his Grand Vizier and punished the corrupt officials that had inspired the puppeteer�s tale. Another story is that the two main characters, Karag�z and Hacivat ( alternatively spelled as Hacivad ) were actual people. These two legendarily clownish individuals were construction workers on a mosque in Bursa sometime in the mid-1300s. Their silly antics distracted the other workers, slowing down the construction, and the ruler at the time ordered their execution. They were so sorely missed that they were immortalized as the silly puppets that entertained the Ottoman Empire for centuries.
Whether these stories have any truth or not, the roots of karag�z stretch back to the unlikeliest of places; the island of Java. Javanese wayang, literally meaning � shadow � is a form of shadow puppetry that dates back to 930 CE. These ornate shadow puppets, easy to transport due to their flat shape, were brought to the Middle East by Arab merchants and were adopted by the Egyptians, who practiced the art sporadically and without much convention for a few centuries. In the year 1517, Egypt was conquered and absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. The last Mameluke ruler, Selim Tumanbay, was overthrown by Sultan Selim I and executed. Selim I later chanced upon an Egyptian shadow puppet performance that recounted the entire execution (even including the fact that the rope broke twice.) Selim I, impressed by the performance, repaid the talented puppeteer by awarding him with 80 gold pieces and ordering him to travel with the royal caravan to Istanbul, where he would repeat the performance for his son. This gesture meant that Egyptian shadow theatre was officially adopted as Turkish entertainment�shadow puppet players then entertained the Ottoman royal court for years afterward.
Karag�z can be deceitful, lewd, and even violent.Other characters in these plays are the drunkard Tuzsuz Deli Bekir with his wine bottle, the long-necked Uzun Efe, the opium addict Kanbur Tiryaki with his pipe, Alt� Kari� Beberuhi ( an eccentric dwarf ), the half-wit Denyo, the spendthrift Civan, and Nig�r, a flirtatious woman. There may also be dancers and djinns, and various portrayals of non-Turks: an Arab who knows no Turkish (typically a beggar or sweet-seller), a black servant woman, a Circassian servant girl, an Albanian security guard, a Greek ( usually a doctor ), an Armenian ( usually a footman or money-changer ), a Jew ( usually a goldsmith or scrap-dealer ), a Laz ( usually a boatman ), or a Persian ( who recites poetry with an Azeri accent ).
Though Karag�z theatre requires a skilled puppeteer who is capable of controlling the puppets and using different voices, it only requires about four people for a performance that can include dozens of characters. An apprentice, called the sand�kk�r, assists the puppeteer�who is called either the Karag�zc�, hayal� (meaning both "imaginary" and "image creator") or hayalbaz� by handing him the puppets in the correct order and setting up the before the show. A singer, or yardak, might sing a song in the prelude, but the yardak is never responsible for voicing a character. The yardak may be accompanied by a dairezen on a tambourine. The simple design of karag�z theatre makes it easy to transport; the puppets are all flat and the screen can be folded into a neat square, which is optimal for traveling karag�z artists. The screen and table behind it take up much less space than a stage so that a performance can be set up anywhere that is dark enough for shadows to be cast. A single hayal� impersonates every single character in the play by mimicking sounds, talking in different dialects, chanting or singing songs of the character in focus. He is normally assisted by an apprentice who sets up and tears down, and who hands him the puppets as needed. The latter task might also be performed by a sand�kk�r (from "sand�k", "chest"). A yardak might sing songs, and a dairezen play the tambourine. The puppets themselves have jointed limbs and are made from the hide of a camel or a water buffalo. The hide is worked until it is semi-transparent; then it is colored, resulting in colorful projections. The lamp for projection is known as a �em�a (literally "candle"), but is typically an oil lamp. Images are projected onto a white muslin screen known as the ayna ("mirror").Projections is from the rear, so the audience does not see the puppeteer. Puppets are typically 35�40 centimeters in height.