Traditional Theatrical Plays In Ottoman Harems


MILLI FOLKLOR, no.124, pp.136-146, 2019 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: Issue: 124
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Journal Name: MILLI FOLKLOR
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.136-146
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


This study focuses on the traditional theatrical plays that the households living in the harem section of Topkapi Palace performed. In general, the term Theatrical Play is used for folk dances or spectacles played to hang about. Theatrical Plays are divided into two groups as verbal and nonverbal. While Ortaoyunu - Light Comedy, puppet shows, Karagoz Shadow Plays, jugglers and Mukallit - Imitators are among the verbal plays, acrobats, dancers (Kocek - dancer boys, cengi - Musicians, Kasebaz - Ones juggling with plates, Curcunabaz - Punchinello, Matrakbaz - Wooden Sword Fighter) ones showing with animals and Atesbaz - fire-players are among the nonverbal plays. During the Ottoman period, the palace and its surroundings were always in good relationship with the theatrical plays, and played an important role in the exhibition of the plays and the protection of the players in the palace. In this sense, the plays were always gladly performed at the palace. It is the main starting point of this study that whether or not the theatrical plays were watched in the Harem section of the palace, as well. In that regard, what was the situation in the harem, a gloomy world that lacked the sun behind high walls and latticed windows? How did the concubines, Sultans, Haseki - most favourable concubine, and Valide Sultans - Queen Mothers, who lived in dark wards covered with tiles and spent time in the dark and gloomy world in a deep silence spend their times? How did the ones living in the concubine wards on the lower floors of the Harem have fun in a closed world where uniform, boring and strict prohibitions were practiced? Which of the traditional theatrical plays were performed and who was attending these entertainments? In what parts of the Harem were these entertainments performed? In this study, in order to find answers to all these questions, the narratives and the records of the period as well as the studies of modem researchers were consulted and the traces of the traditional theatrical plays were scented. This discussion aims to look for new answers on this issue, which has not been dealt with in detail until now, and to observe the sense of entertainment and tastes of the inhabitants of this closed world.