1) Shahrayar was under the impression that an act of promiscuous sexual behavior on the part of his wife and slave girls would not happen to someone of his social stature. After not only his wife’s adultery but that of his brothers as well, the two brothers ventured alone in sorrow until they had their encounter with the demons mistress. From her they brothers took away that a woman will do as she pleases in life and there was not anything a man could do to restrain her actions. This was the lead up to Shahrayer’s resolve to have his wife and slave girls killed, and that from that night forward Shahrayar was to sleep with a different women every night and have her killed the next day.
I believe this resolve manifested itself because Sharayer continued to have the desire of a woman in his bed, but he did not wish to experience the pain of her eventual betrayal at a later point. For a king such as Shahrayar, I suppose this makes sense because his rasp on power meant that nothing he ruled or dictated could be challenged. So if his will was to have a woman killed, who or what was there to say he was wrong or should be prevented from doing this? The vizier’s daughter, Shahrazad, seems to have been the answer to this question. For she took it upon herself to skillfully prevent not only herself, but any other woman as well, from being put to death thanks to her own skilled intuition in use to interrupt Shahrayar’s wayward actions.
Finally, male egos in macho societies are frail. But the point is that when left unchecked, either by a more dominant or controlling influence, or in Shahrazad’s case a more passive one, there is not a stop on the emotional reaction to this sort of uncontrolled behavior which reacts to a frayed ego.
2) I see one main difference between the two different tales being told. The Tale of the Ox and the Donkey and The Tale of the Merchant and His Wife seem to tell a story of how men and women are not really working together but are instead divisive toward one another. If you take The Tale of the Ox and the Donkey, and substitute the Ox and the Donkey for opposing gender roles, you see how the one gender acts to work against the other gender at their expense for a personal gain. Then in The Tale of the Merchant and His Wife, we see how a secret held from one spouse leads to the wife elected to having her husband dead rather than not knowing what the secret is. The merchant resolves to control his wife by beating her later, and this works in his favor to resolve the matter. These were both stories told by Shahrazad’s father.
Shahrazad’s long story however of the Merchant and the Demon seems to tell stories that are progressively more strange to the demon than the prior one told. This seems to parallel the story of Sharayer’s wife and his slave girls cheating on him, which was worse than Sharayar’s brothers story of his wife cheating on him. The gist of all of this is that after Sharayar’s brother finds out about his brother’s misfortune, he forgets his troubles and is happy again. After the Demon hears the three Old Man’s tales, he seems to no longer be troubled by the death of his son at the hands of the merchant. With the merchant being saved by the three Old men, he is free to return home to his family who love and miss him. And what Shahrazad might be trying to convey to Sharayar is that it is okay to forget about what his wife did to him so that he may no longer keep slaying every woman that lays in his bed.
3) Absolutely not. In the First Circle of Hell, Virgil describes how all who are there are people who have not sinned, but are there anyhow because they have not been baptized. As he puts it to Dante, “[for] this defect, and for no other guilt, we here are lost,” and that “[Virgil himself is] a member of this group” (1224). Among this group were not only men and women, but infants as well. It is certainly hard in my mind to find an infant deserving of hell because the infant was not baptized. What is also unfortunate is that many dwellers in this region of hell were there since the time before Christ reigned the Earth with his Good News. So this implies that there are people in hell who never even had the chance to become baptized because there was no Christianity to observe while they were alive.
It then become apparent later that many of the inhabitants of the most dark regions of hell are simply there because they were guilty of sodomy. No matter what anyone’s perception of sodomy is in the present day, I am not sure that if sodomy is considered to be a sin that it is worthy of the deepest regions of hell that are in the same neighborhood as those regions observed for murderers.