Shahrayar’s madness was appalling even for the time he was living in. Even at the time when women were viewed as possessions the citizens of his country viewed his behavior was viewed as excessive. That is why the citizens of his country called for a plague on Shahbrayar’s head.
Shahbrayar’s pride was hurt when he found his wife cheating. Her cheating not only hurt him as a man and the master of his home it hurt him as the King and master of his country. Being a man and King should have been more than enough to deter his wife from making a fool of him. Her betrayal damaged his ego and caused him to question women in general. Then the wife of the demon that forced Shahvrayar and his brother to sleep with her reinforced his to believe that all women were deceivers and would use their cunning to get what they want. His bruised ego and the madness that ensued caused him to rationalize the killing of the women he slept with before they could cheat on him.
In the vizier’s stories the animals are given human like abilities. They have the ability to think and to talk, they are also able to give advice. In The Story of the Merchant and the Demon the animals do not speak or think, they are vessels used to place people’s spirits.
The vizier uses his story about the ox and the donkey to show his daughter what he feels is the folly of her thinking. The donkey thinks he has a solution to the oxes hardships but only ends up taking on those hardships himself. The vizier believes that his daughter is like the donkey and her taking the place of other young women will only earn her their fate. In Shahrazad’s story of the Merchant and the Demon the animals are allowed to life and serve penance instead of being killed for their wrong doings. Shahrazad’s stories are about justice and forgiveness. The demon is like the King- both demanding justice even without quilt of the parties involved. The stories helped the King see that these other women were not responsible for his wives actions and should not be held accountable for it.
In the vizier’s story the Rooster tells the Dog what he would do with a disobedient wife. The thought that it is permissible to beat a woman into submission or to even kill her tells us how male oriented this culture was. While the tales by his daughter show us that while women are treated inferior and are seen as cunning not all women are the same. We see in Shahrazad’s tales how a woman can heal a man.
I found it fitting that the sinners were punished in the same way in which they sinned. They made their choice in life so they continued with that choice in death. For example the fortune tellers lived telling peoples futures and this was deemed black magic or upsetting the balance of nature, so they were condemned in hell to have their heads on backwards. They had to spend eternity forever looking back.
The sinners are punished in accordance with their sins so there is greater punishment for those deemed to have committed greater sins. I had a hard time with the way some sins were placed in the levels of hell. I would think that murder would be a far greater sin then fraud. When I looked into this further I know understand that Dante is following strict Christian doctrine when assigning the sins their place in hell. Violence is an act against God’s will but fraud is a twisted perversion of it, so it is seen as a greater sin.