Humour and status reversal in Greek shadow theatre

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Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies

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Department or Program


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Traditional plays of the Greek shadow theatre deal with the adventures of Karaghiozis, a poor Greek who is the embodiment of (cunning, slyness). Plays of the comic type, and more specifically, plays in which Karaghiozis assumes a position requiring certain skills, have a standard narrative structure or plot which can be summarized as follows: A wealthy Turkish pasha or vizier, looking for a person to perform a job which requires certain skills, meets Hadziavatis, the subservient town crier, and asks for his help in finding such a person. Hadziavatis agrees at once, sets off, and invariably meets Karaghiozis, who, upon learning of the position the Turk is trying to fill, immediately claims to possess the prerequisite skills. With much humour and cleverness Karaghiozis convinces first Hadziavatis and then the Turk that he can in fact perform the job. Karaghiozis then appears on stage as the skilled person with the appropriate costume or equipment (cook's hat, doctor's bag, secretary's writing implements, etc.). He is transformed from a poor uneducated man of low status into a skilled educated man of high status. In that position he deceives several stock characters, such as Omorphonios, Dionysios and Stavrakas, until his deceit is finally exposed and he is chased off stage. © 1976 Maney Publishing.

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