Please provide a character analysis of one of the characters in The Arabian Nights by Sir Richard Burton. 

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the story of The Arabian Nights, also known as A Thousand and One Arabian Nights and A Thousand Nights and a Night, betrayal sets the stage. The Sultan Schahriar, ruler of a dynasty he had inherited from his father, which spread from Persia to the border of China, was very much in love with his wife. He showered her with whatever she wanted and he was very happy. However, after several years he discovered that she had been unfaithful to him, so he had the grand-vizier carry out the law at that time for such an offense—his unfaithful wife was executed. From that time on, Schahriar would each day marry a young woman and then, having spent the night with her, have her strangled the next morning. In this way, he could not be betrayed again. It is not hard to understand that the once-loved sultan was now cursed by all: those who lost a daughter, those in fear of having their daughter chosen as wife, and the townspeople who mourned such a terrible state of affairs.

The grand-vizier's daughter, Scheherazade...

... was clever and courageous in the highest degree. Her father had given her the best masters [teachers] in philosophy, medicine, history and the fine arts, and besides all this, her beauty excelled that of any girl in the kingdom of Persia.

Being a woman of intelligence and conscience, Scheherazade went to her father one day to ask a favor: that he would choose her to be the sultan's next wife. She had hopes of changing the sultan's mind, in order to save other women in the kingdom.

I am determined to stop this barbarous practice of the Sultan's, and to deliver the girls and mothers from the awful fate that hangs over them.

Her father detested being the man who chose each wife and then had to arrange to have her killed: he would welcome an end to the practice. But he was still fearful for Scheherazade. In the face of her persistence, he finally gave his consent and Scheherazade married the sultan.

The story has a happy ending, as young Scheherazade asks for her sister to keep her company on her wedding night as she visits with the sultan. He agrees. As Scheherazad has planned (showing how clever she is), her sister Dinarzade asks for a story before she departs. The sultan agrees to this also. Just before dawn, at the part of the story that is most exciting, the most intense (for she is an excellent storyteller), Scheherazad stops. The sultan wants to know the end of the story, but she can only tell him—she says—if he grants her one more day of life...for according to the law, she is supposed to now be executed. Again, the sultan acquiesces, and this process continues for years (a thousand nights and one nights); in the meantime, the sultan falls in love with Scheherazad (as she has fallen in love with him), and so he dismisses the law. They have children and grow old together.

Scheherazade is brave and caring of others, as seen in her willingness to risk everything to save other women like herself. She is intelligent and clever (as seen not only with her plan, but also in the wonderful tales she tells); but she is also an excellent judge of human nature—believing that the sultan's curiosity will buy her one more day of life...for as many days as it takes to change his heart. She is determined and persistent. And, her long life infers that she is also a loving and faithful wife.

Read the study guide:
The Arabian Nights

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