I don’t think that Shahrayar’s madness is a special case by any means. Many people, not just men, are hurt by acts of infidelity. This is just like Madea’s madness caused by Jason’s betrayal. But, the way that Shahrayar regains his sanity is something that I found interesting. When Shahrayar regains his senses by the realization that others have it worse it makes his suffering easier. Recognizing someone else has it worse than you to feel better about yourself sounds really insensitive and much too human at the same time.
Animals in the vizier’s stories appear to be simple and favor a certain human characteristic; the ox is hard working, the mule is clever, and the rooster is a misogynist. The animals in the daughter’s tales have much more personality and are more human. The wife, cursed to be a deer because she desired to be the center of attention; brothers forced to take the shape of dogs because they were not loyal to their brother. The way the merchant uses the advice of the animal to beat his wife shows how men favored obedience, and try to defend this by portraying it as a part of nature. The daughter uses the animals to invoke sympathy and empathy.
I think the penalties are very appropriate to the sins committed in the inferno. The idea that the souls are doomed to life their sins for an eternity in the afterlife seems like great poetic justice. The first few layers of hell don’t seem particularly scary at first either. While the gates to hell certainly are despairing, and the mindless souls doomed to chase their banner endlessly is cruel. Limbo on the other hand seemed less cruel and more reserved. The circles up the 4th circle all seem to fit the punishment, primarily living the sins you committed for an eternity. I think that violence or wrath is the greatest sin is very true, and to life out an eternity of violence seems like an appropriate end.
I agree with you about Shahrazad’s tales using animals to show the more empathetic side, versus her dad’s tales, which just seemed demeaning towards women (although the merchant’s wife was really irritating).