Provide a characterization of Shahrazad of the The Thousand and One Nights (also known as The Arabian Nights).

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story of A Thousand and One Nights, also known as The Arabian Nights, is built upon the structural framework that allows all of the stories within to be joined in single purpose, rather than presenting a string of tales that are seemingly disconnected.

Shahrazad is the woman who marries Shahrayar, a powerful ruler. Having found his first wife unfaithful to him, he killed her. Now he marries a virgin each night and kills her the next day, in this way guaranteeing that his "wife" will remain faithful. It is no surprise that it soon becomes difficult to find a wife for the ruler. This is the framework of the story: Shahrazad marries Shaharyar, but her stories every night are so wonderful, that her husband does not kill her because he wants to hear more of her stories. This premise is what ties together these unrelated tales.

Shahrazad is in the story very little, providing the story's essential framework. However, we can still characterize her based on what we do know. First of all, she is brave. Her father is the vizier who is in charge of obtaining a new wife each night for the ruler. When he tells his daughter of his concern of being unsuccessful, Shahrazad offers herself, even knowing she might well be killed the morning after the marriage. This shows she is brave, but she is also self-less. It is her generous nature to save other women in the kingdom that motivates her to agree to the marriage. Having listened to a story her father relates to demonstrate the danger that awaits her, Shahrazad makes a plan with her sister Dinazad; Shahrazad she will ask for her sister to visit the new couple on their wedding night. Then Dinazad will request a story from her sister with the permission of Shaharyar.

The wedding takes place, the marriage is consummated, and Shahrazad makes her request. Shaharyar grants the request and his wife begins to tell her stories, but only until dawn. He is so delighted, that he puts off the execution for another night. This shows that Shahrazad is clever and entertaining. She is clever for thinking to use the stories to beguile her husband to allow her another day of life, and entertaining in that she tells the tales with such skill that Shaharyar cannot wait to hear what she will tell him next.

And so she continues to tell him a new story for one thousand and one nights. To be able to continue for so long, Shahrazad must also be very intelligent.

During this time Shahrazad bears Shaharyar three sons. On the last evening of her stories, she asks her husband for a wish: that he spare her life for the sake of her children. The tale is told that by now Shaharyar deeply loves his wife and agrees without hesitation.

There is a great celebration, the people are joyful, and Shahrazad and Shaharyar "live happily ever after."

Read the study guide:
The Arabian Nights

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