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Female Power in The Decameron and 1001 Nights

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Historically women were held in lower social standings than men. Women were not allowed to have any significant roles in society, other than being the wife or the mother. Decameron and 1001 nights demonstrate this. While they may not have any meaningful social standing, women do have the upper hand in most aspects of the male-female relationship. A repeating reference in medieval writing to a body of arcane knowledge marked by male authors as the feminine is a promising avenue of approach to the many writers who utilize, rather than endorse, misogynist topoi. The Decameron and 1001 nights engage issues of women’s knowledge and power concerning a collective male understanding and capability, as will be explored below. 

Starting from the beginning, the status and its condition of women to frame his thoughts on ethical and social questions, explaining that his works are directed to women because they are more in need of comfort than his stories offer. Men for centuries have had distractions from the world to ease their anguish, so women should also have at least the diversion provided by the Decameron’s tales. Men can forget their sorrows in action, so women should have the benefit of language and its vicarious pleasures time they can be submissive whenever they need to be. In many scenarios, Boccaccio characterizes women as the protagonists who do not eagerly accept the traditionally understood role being passive to men and having no voice in a male-dominated society. With Boccaccio comparing men and women, it appears that Boccaccio favors women as superior gender in terms of both good and evil. Examining the stories where Boccaccio examines male and female relationship dynamics, it appears that females are vigorous, more lustful. Additionally, in the instances where the male character appears to be the victor or surpass the woman, men usually achieve victory through deceitful means. In general, it is fair to say that Boccaccio does portray women as outshining men in many respects, some affirmative, and some negative. Boccaccio makes a consistent reference to the actual feelings expressed by women that are based on their own choices and are not influenced by male’s influence. In one sense, he shows that love can be a delightful and playful experience, but not in the sense that it is solely playing, nor is it to be taken lightly. The fact that love in Boccaccio stories often ends severely, in tragedy or the permanent tie of marriage, deserves meditation. The scene’s from the tales is not a natural environment for playboys. On the tenth day, Boccaccio tells a tale of contradiction, potentially of the most blatant commentaries. Boccaccio possibly included this story in a non-corresponding way to highlight its message, and bring more attention to it. Griselda, a lower-class woman, is primarily abused continuously throughout her life by her husband. Boccaccio’s tone within the story is one of sarcasm. Possibly this story, in particular, is to show Boccaccio’s women that a steady will and devotion could have been applied wrong. The intent could have been to teach women not to accept unfair treatment from their male counterparts. 

A story with a similar theme is 1001 nights. Throughout the many tales told, we see that women are only seen as symbols of pleasure as women only can hold onto their control through sex, desire, and beauty. The 1001nights Shahrazad to represent feminism as with her wisdom and her way of storytelling, and the reader can see how she overcomes and changes Shahrayar. This juxtaposing concept of women’s role in society and Shahrazad shows us the actual value that women hold on to as they are just equal to their counterparts. Also, one interesting correlation with gender/power relationships and with a class that is present in the 1001 nights. Here is this common theme in the stories. Shahrazad tells sharayar the stories can be labeled as misogynistic as some of the stories, including men who cause downfall for women. One example is the short story ‘The merchant and his wife.’ While analyzing this story, most readers will be shocked by the meaning the story is trying to communicate that men should be able to beat their wives into submission. At first read there was quite a bit of confusion about why Shahrazad tells this specific story to alter shahrayar; strangely enough, I found that she tells this story to reveal an observation of him and his poor behavior. The overall intended message was to show that abuse won’t force submission. Telling this story surprisingly works out as she doesn’t get killed by the king the day after. 

One of the main themes in 1001 nights is the oppressor and the oppressed. Readers are faced with this tension that plays out through powerful Djinns locked in bottles, kings and their servants, parents and their children, but most importantly through a woman’s battle for survival in a world created for men. This is why the women of the stories are so wily: because cunning and trickery are the first recourse of the weak. These female characters become cunning to overcome the men who oppress them. They fought to make their own decisions and live according to their own beliefs about freedom, sexuality, and love. The women in these stories, in fact, do find their way – again and again, we watch as the powerless become dominant, and the strong grow weak. The reader sees a discrepancy at work inside Shahrayar, the all-powerful king. His ruling is absolutely, but his enormous love for one woman, his wife, is his vulnerability. Shahrayar discovers that she’s been unfaithful, it drives him to the point of madness, his love becomes hate, and his strength became his flaw. Shahrayar makes a bloodthirsty declaration: ‘I, Shahrayar, shall each night marry a virgin, kissed only by her mother. I shall kill her the following morning and thereby protect myself from the cunning and deceit of women, for there is not a single chaste woman on this earth!’ The decree of total dominance Shahrayar’s vow to bend a whole kingdom to his mad will is, ironically, a testament to his wife’s enduring emotional power over him. Slowly, he succumbs to another usurpation in the form of Shahrazad’s deceiving tales. She was meant to be his prisoner, another one of his wives, to be used sexually and murdered in the morning. It should be assumed that he becomes her prisoner because he was addicted to her tale, to her voice, to sitting up with her in the nights. She chooses stories that mirror her predicament. All the characters are pleading for life, away. She does this brilliantly, of course, camouflaging with her little stories here and there on different topics. The mainline is you cease to be a human being if you steep yourself in brutality and killing. That adultery, like many human failings, happens for reasonings most can sympathize with. One cannot be a tyrant, and one must listen carefully to others. Every story is her pleading for her life, asking for the killer to stop. 

Conclusively a thousand and one night from larger standpoint shows the power and value that women possess even though the stories were labeled as misogynistic by many, and the morals and virtues believed when the accounts were made. Women hold this power of intellect that helps them retain their potential, which is identified in numerous tales in the thousand and one nights. The 1001 nights act as a symbol of feministic literary pieces from many years to come. Boccaccio finds multiple of activating the social mechanisms that lead to the law’s failure to account for individual circumstances: within the frame tale alone, he presents the contrasting point of views within genders, including in his new mini-society both men and women, and variation of economic class and social station, through the inclusion of the servants. Boccaccio’s more favored style tactic for considering difference is gender, which is established as his fundamental category even before the meeting of the storytellers, in the Author’s Preface, where he sharply distinguishes between the lives of women and men. 

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Female Power In The Decameron And 1001 Nights. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/female-power-in-the-decameron-and-1001-nights/
“Female Power In The Decameron And 1001 Nights.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/female-power-in-the-decameron-and-1001-nights/
Female Power In The Decameron And 1001 Nights. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/female-power-in-the-decameron-and-1001-nights/> [Accessed 20 Oct. 2021].
Female Power In The Decameron And 1001 Nights [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Aug 06 [cited 2021 Oct 20]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/female-power-in-the-decameron-and-1001-nights/
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