72 CONSTANTINOPLE AND ITS ENVIRONS ;
streets, or houses, where men and women, supporting various characters, meet as in the
daily intercourse of society, and every thing combines to create the delusions of dramatic
representation. All these things are considered as coming under the prohibition of
making the likeness of anything ; and proscribed, with the art of painting, as idolatrous
representations. They have, however, occasionally something approaching to our plays;
where more than one character appears in a naked room, or in the open air, in front of a
kiosk, while the spectators look from the windows, or form a circle round the performers.
On these occasions some very gross indecencies take place, and the gravity and sense of
decorum of a Turk is laid aside. They permit, and seem to enjoy, in these representations, a violation of morals and propriety, which, in real life, they would punish with the
greatest severity. The sultans themselves are often present at such exhibitions, and
set the example of encouraging them.
Such things, however, are rare, only of extraordinary occurrence, and on memorable occasions ; but the Medak, or Story-teller, is a source of every-day enjoyment. This is a very
important personage, and an essential part of Turkish amusement. He enacts by himself, in a monologue, various characters, and with a spirit and fidelity quite, astonishing,
considering the inflexible and taciturn disposition of the people. The admirable manner
in which one unassisted individual supports the representations of various persons, the
versatility with which he adopts their countenance, attitude, and phraseology, are so
excellent, that Frank residents, who have been accustomed to the perfection of the scenic
art in their own country, are highly delighted with this Turkish drollery, and they are
constant spectators, not only for amusement, but to perfect themselves in the language by
hearing it under its various inflections, and thus acquire a knowledge which a common master could never impart; they also go to see different traits of manners, and of real life
faithfully represented, which a long residence in the country would hardly allow them an
opportunity of witnessing. The Medak, therefore, is a public character, of importance to
strangers as well as others.
The subjects he selects for representation are Oriental stories, some actually taken
from, and all greatly resembling the tales of the Arabian Nights, in which the incidents and
persons seem to have the same origin. Sometimes the corruption of a cadi, and his manner of administering justice, are detailed with considerable humour and sarcastic severity.
Sometimes a Turkish proverb is illustrated, and forms, as it were, the text of his details;
and the effects of various vices and virtues are exhibited, so as to form an excellent moral
lesson. Among the proverbs illustrated and dramatized, the following are the most
usual. "In a cart drawn by a buffalo, you may catch a hare." "It is not by saying
'honey, honey,' it will come to your mouth." "A man cannot carry two melons under
one arm." "Though your enemy be no bigger than an ant, suppose him as large as an
elephant." " More flies are caught by a drop of honey, than by a hogshead of vinegar."
" He who rides only a borrowed horse, does not do so often." "Do not trust to the
whiteness of a turban." " Though the tongue has no bones in it, it breaks many." In
these and similar ones, the effects of industry, perseverance, idleness, caution, cunning,
and such other moral qualities, are illustrated in a manner equally striking and amusing.