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Greek Laughter and TearsAntiquity and After$
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Margaret Alexiou and Douglas Cairns

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474403795

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474403795.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 28 March 2020

Belisarius in the Shadow Theatre: The Private Calvary of a Legendary General

Belisarius in the Shadow Theatre: The Private Calvary of a Legendary General

Chapter:
(p.390) 22 Belisarius in the Shadow Theatre: The Private Calvary of a Legendary General
Source:
Greek Laughter and Tears
Author(s):

Anna Stavrakopoulou

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474403795.003.0022

The favourite character of the Greek shadow puppeteer, Vassilaros (1899–1979), one of the most productive and best-known artists of his generation, was the sixth century Byzantine general Belisarius (c. 505–565). Vassilaros created a number of variations of plays, in which Justinian’s general was the protagonist of a love-and-betrayal drama, against the historical backdrop of a most successful military career. According to historical sources Belisarius was disfavoured on several occasions by Justinian, but restored to power thanks to the support of Empress Theodora, who was a friend of Belisarius’ wife, Antonina. This riveting story has inspired a number of plays, novels and operas, long before its twentieth-century debut in the shadow theatre. In Vassilaros’ play, Belisarius’ story is adapted to the conventions of this art form to involve the trickster Karaghiozis, who is the leading member of the shadow theatre cast. The dramatic circumstances of Belisarius’ life are spiced up with comic episodes involving Karaghiozis, who is always after food and money. At the height of battle scenes, Karaghiozis stuffs his pockets with meatballs, to appease his never-ending hunger, even at the threshold of death.

Keywords:   Belisarius, Byzantium, Greek shadow theatre, Karaghiozis, Vassilaros, Popular art, Oral tradition

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