One thousand and one nights

  1. How are we to understand Shahrayar’s madness? Does it make sense to you? That is, are male egos in macho societies that frail, or is his a special case?

I do believe Shahravar’s madness is typical of male ego, although certainly with a buffer of time. Men no longer kill women because of their deceit, but men certainly often aim to control a woman, although not as obsessively. Chivalry is old, but not as old as patriarchal society’s, and so in the last century or so men have been able to adequately control women while they still gain independence. Women have been able to vote for less than 100 years, meaning before that men completely controlled politics and war. To this day, men on average earn more and hold more positions of power, and while that scale is tipping and the power is evening out among the genders, it still makes sense to women that men are often capable of insecurity when it comes to women. They are the physically stronger, the hero, the born leader, according to the epics; and so if Shahravar wants to kill his newly wedded wives for an entire year, or if Gilgamesh wants to go to bed with all the newly married virgins before they bed their husbands then they could, because they “belong’ to them. Jealousy today is a good example of ego, although not as extreme as in the 9th century.

 

  1. Both the vizier and his daughter, Shahrazad, tell tales that surround their human characters with important animals, but the animals play different roles in the imaginative worlds of father and daughter. Compare and contrast the powers attributed to the animal world in The Tale of the Ox and the Donkey and The Tale of the Merchant and His Wife with those described in The Story of the Merchant and the Demon. How may these differences reflect the contrasting visions of gender relations so central to The Thousand and One Nights?

The animals in The Tale of the Ox and the Donkey are selfish and cunning, much like Shahravar’s idea of women before Shahrazad, and the animals in the Tale of the Merchant and his Wife are innocent and unjustly treated, much like the women Shahravar condemns in his bias of women. Shahrazad tells these stories in subtle imitation of the king; weaving one within another to save her life, and all virgins in the land, and her sisters from the crazy king. It is interesting in these tales that the female figure is usually a concubine or a slave, and yet the main subject is Sharazad’s cunning in cuckolding the king.

  1. Do you believe the penalties suffered are appropriate to the sins committed in Dante’s Inferno? Why or why not?

No way. There is no way walking for eternity on hot sand is the just punishment for being a homosexual, or that you should even have to go to hell for gathering interest on something you owe. Dante’s inferno takes punishment to the extreme, but what makes sinning and punishment impossible to gauge is that everyone is different. Like the telltale story of how the poor man steals some bread from a bakery to feed his starving family. Does this man deserve an eternity of hell as equally as a Jack the ripper? Dante’s inferno dwells on the brimstone belief of scaring people out of sinning, that bad choices or the rejection of God will consequently lead you to an eternity of suffering, and so since the stakes are high, things are exaggerated, much like in religious stories.

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