Shahrayar’s madness is a product of two different things. One is the breach of trust that occurred when he found his wife cheating on him. The other was the that when he found his wife and he concubines having sex with the slaves he realized that the women he thought were his were lying to him. Throwing in doubt all of his interactions with them and giving him a glimpse into their lives far beyond what he had ever seen before. Sharayars reaction to this both does and doesn’t make sense to me. Its understandable that someone who is betrayed in such a way no longer trusts the people that he interacts with. What doesn’t make sense though is how he regards those people as something that he can just go and use and throw away as he sees fit. This type of mental interaction is something that makes sense on a mental level but not at an emotional one. As to if male egos are that frail in macho societies or his is a special case is answered by the Vizier. The Vizier struggles with his own daughter to try and prevent her from risking her life even threatening to beat her to get her to desist. Eventually he gives in but its easy to see that he cares for his daughter and wants to protect her to the best of his ability and is willing to allow her to change his mind. Showing that Shahrayar’s reaction is the exception.
When the Vizier uses the stories of the Ox and Donkey and the Merchant and his wife he is using these stories to prove a direct point. That point being that he does not want his daughter to put her life at risk and thinks so is a poor decision by using the tale of the Ox and Donkey. Then he threatens to stop her by beating her by telling the story of the Merchant and his Wife. While Shahrazad is using the stories that she is telling as a more indirect way of giving Shahrayar a different view of women. While at the same time showing him a way to punish people that does not require him to kill everyone that makes a decision that he doesn’t like.
I believe that the penalties in are a product of the time that they were written and in my opinion some but not at all of the penalties that were faced by those that preformed these actions were worthy of the punishment faced. One of the main combination of sin and penalty suffered that I had issue with was the people who were considered pagans and suffered even though otherwise they otherwise could have lived a very just and honorable life. Thats nothing more than a product of discrimination. A few of the other parts of the levels of hell I do agree with are how hypocrites and traitors are punished.