- Shahrayar’s madness is hard to comprehend in today’s society, let alone imagine the number of innocent girls he had put to death. In a male ran society where women are seen as chattel or property and something to be mastered and owned I can understand his shock and anger of being played a fool. The wife’s loyalty and obedience are seen as a given, never to be questioned. I think it is not only his ego but the shame of not being able to control your household, in case his women that made him so ruthless. Nowhere does he talk about love or heartache, just the loss of honor and in his eyes manhood. How dare something he owns give itself to another? Shahrayar never really knowing women and having really selfish examples, (his wife, concubines, and the demon’s girl) does the only thing he can think of to stop the cycle and still have the joys of a woman in his bed. He is trying to prove to the world that no other woman can make a fool of him. I also think he truly believes women are deceitful creatures full of empty words and driven by cardinal desires. What he did does make sense to me because I can see his side of the coin. That does not mean I agree with it, in fact I think he went overboard. Personally I would have put the Lady to death, whipped then sold off the other offenders, and found a new wife figuring they saw what happened to the last group so loyalty should be better if not repeat the process till they figure it out. Sadly, I do not see his as a special case. Male egos in a macho society can be frail. When your standing is based on how manly you are, to possess the most beautiful women that only you can touch and see is a huge pride point. You hear about abuse all the time. In many places there are no women’s rights, and abuse is common. The only thing that makes his case the slightest bit special is that he was in such a high place of power that no one could stop him or rein him in. His word was law, for no one was higher than the king. Throughout history there have been many rulers that took their own agendas to the extreme. Hitler is one of the most famous, the atrocities and deaths his rule caused make Shahrayar’s madness look like child’s play.
- The animals in both the vizier’s and Shahrazad’s story have important roles. In the tale of the Ox and the Donkey there is an honored, well kept donkey and a dutiful Ox. The donkey thinking it was cleaver came up with a plan for the Ox to get better treatment. The Ox follows the Donkey’s advise and in fact gets a day off, but the Donkey ends up having to do the Ox’s work and is treated the same as the Ox by the plowman. After the day of hard labor the Donkey tricks the Ox back into his original position. The vizier used this analogy to try and persuade his daughter from her course of action. Shahrazad is represented by the Donkey, she thinks she has a plan to better the kingdom and stop the daily murder of the king’s wife. Her father thinks she is being foolish as the Donkey and will pay for her interference. The Ox represents the girls the King marries then kills the next day. The vizier thinks Shahrazad will only give the girls a day’s break then the cycle will continue. Since she continues to insist in trying he tells her of another lesson the Merchant learned from the animals. In this tale the Merchant’s wife stubbornly insists that he tell her what made him laugh even though it will cause his death. As they are preparing for his funeral rites he over hears a conversation between the Dog and the Rooster. The Rooster call’s the Merchant a fool for not being able to control his woman, and tells how he would have handles the situation. So the Merchant beats his wife into submission and gets to live. In this story it shows that men have the right to beat or even kill their women if they are not obedient. Even though he threatens his daughter with such treatment she is not deterred from the goal she has set.
In Shahrazad’s tales for the King, the animals take on a different tone. They are more in the background but play an important part. The wrong doer instead of being beat or put to death is transformed and serves penance as an animal. In this case as a deer, two black dogs, and a mule. All three stories are wonderful and set up the groundwork for the last which is most important. The tale on the eighth night is really about the king and his first wife who he caught with a black slave. In the story the man is changed then transformed back to his original shape by the shop owner’s daughter (representing the vizier’s daughter). Shahrazad is teaching the King there are good women in the world.
The animals in both the vizier and his daughter’s tales reflect the views of the society. It is clear how the male role is set up to the extreme and foremost as seen by the men. Women should do they say and never question or disobey a man. The feminine role is more subtle and seeks justice for women. It also demonstrates that there are several kinds of women, unlike how men are seen as only macho.
- I believe for Dante they were just. This story is about how he sees Hell. Those who denied life after death are found in tombs or coffins, which are a fitting end because that is where they said they would be. Dead and buried following their teachings in life of you live you die and that is it. I find this idea very sad for I know several who hold the same thoughts and I would hate to see them reduced to this level of Hell. A boiling river of blood for those who commit violence crimes against God, themselves, or thy neighbor. The depth they are at is based on the severity of the crime and centaurs keep them in place yielding arrows. Again it seems fitting for the crimes committed. Next we encounter the suicides whom are now bushes and trees which bleed and are caused pain when leaves or branches are broken. They will never know what it is like to have a body again because they forfeited it when they took their own lives. Again I can see where this is just. Life is a treasure we should not throw away no matter how bad it may seem. Lastly we come to the burning sands with flakes of fire raining down where lying flat on their backs are the blasphemers, crouching are the Usurers, and running aimlessly are the Sodomites; and a river of boiling blood flows through it. If Hell is fire and brimstone then I like what awaits the evil man and can see it as just. The penalties listed here do fit the crimes and the era of Dante’s Comedy. It is not what I believe Hell to be like, but the picture he paints is full of all the biblical and theatrical embodiment of what burning in Hell for eternity could be. Reading his account of the tortures is enough to make a sinner a saint to avoid the fire.