The Mountain-Bandits of the Hellenic Shadow Theatre of Karaghiozis: Criminals or Heroes?

Ioanna Papageorgiou


From the time of the legendary mountain bandit Davelis in the 1850s (and even earlier, almost since the foundation of modern Hellenic state in 1828), the fate of modern Hellenic State has been marked either by a weakness to meet with the citizens’ expectations or, in order to quieten subsequent reactions, by a series of oppressive measures (even dictatorships). This policy would unavoidably instigate some kind of aggressive retaliation in the form of banditry.

Karaghiozis, a form of traditional shadow theatre that articulated the worldview of the lower social strata for more than half a century (1890-1960), became a vehicle through which artists and spectators communicated their own standpoint towards banditry and violent retaliation. It formulated a special category of plays that dramatised actual or fictitious bandits. In the first place, that group of plays may be regarded as an indication of the spectators’ fascination with bandits or as a surrogate experience for the desire to avenge against misery. However, as it gradually developed its own poetics, it revealed a watchful response by establishing a series of codes regarding acceptable and objectionable banditry.

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