Preparing for Class: September 18

The Arabian Nights, pp. 5-18


As you read these stories, keep a record in outline form of how one relates to the next. By what kind of link do we progress from one story level to another, with the first level being the book, The Arabian Nights, and the second, the story of Shahrayar, Shahzaman, the vizier and Shahrazad, and so on. See if you can outline the various levels of the narrative--and bring the outline to class.

  1. Why did the anonymous author write down the tales we have here? In what sense is his book religiously motivated? How do his motivations for writing compare with Homer's?

  2. Shahrayar and Shahzaman are brothers. What differences are there between them? What do they have in common?

  3. What is a vizier? From today's reading, describe the kind of position and duties a vizier is likely to have.

  4. As you read, you should make note of gender and racial biases in the text. How does it compare to the other texts we've read in this respect?

  5. How do Shahrayar and Shahzaman "prove" to themselves that women are by nature faithless? Is there any other way to interpret the episode with the young woman and the demon?

  6. What do you think of Shahrayar's "solution" to the problem of a wife's potential unfaithfulness? What does it suggest to see human beings as interchangeable in this way?

  7. What does the Ox learn from the Donkey? What does the Donkey learn? How does this apply to Shahrazad?

  8. What's the proper relationship between husband and wife, according to Sharazad's father? Does he practice what he preaches?

  9. What's unusual about Shahrayar and Shahrazad's wedding night?


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