Synopses (Ryan, 1982). He stumbles on a


Divine Comedy


Inferno is among the
first works that have been written in Italian rather than the Latin language
written by Dante Aligheiri. It is part of the trilogy, Divine Comedy. Most
readers have been impressed by the imaginative illustration of hell in the poem
making it a noticeable piece of work in the Western literary canon. On the eve
of Good Friday in 1300 on Maundy Thursday, Dante begins by losing his way in the
woods (Ryan, 1982). He stumbles on a legendary Latin poet, Virgil, who not only
offers to usher his way out of the woods but also take him to the hill mountain
to meet his long-dead lover, Beatrice. Dante is initially warned that for his
course to be accomplished, they are to first go through nine different circles
of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise (Roffi, 2017). Every circle is symbolically
used as a punishment for one’s sins committed. Dante finally emerges from Hell
on Easter Sunday where he finds his way to God through Beatrice and can finally
be able to once again look upon the stars (Jacoff & Ball, 1991). The poem
is not only literally featured on the imagination of the physical journey
through the afterlife but also a symbolic expedition towards salvation as well
as a representation of how Dante the poet gradually develops. Ir can be seen
that when Dante finally meets the Virgil who is a legendary poet, his journey
as a poet commences. The journey just like most journeys is not easy as there
are good and bad things that happen in order to achieve the final destination
and in this case, is that of Dante being a renowned poet. Just as he has to go
through the nine circles of Hell, Purgatory as well as Paradise, in his journey
as a poet he had to go through the good and bad times in order to achieve the
best out of his career. 



Arabian Nights: A Thousand and One Nights

The Arabian Nights is a
collection of stories relating to the Islamic Golden Age compiled by varying
artists in many centuries. All the different stories have been centralized
towards the theme story of Sultan Schahriar. Seven years later after unveiling
the betrayal of her first wife, Schahriar decides that he will kill her but
continuously marry another wife every night and have her killed the next
morning to ensure the betrayal never continues (Zipes & Beaumont, 2015). As
he finally marries Shahrazad, she derives a plan of telling a story in half to
the Sultan every night and finish the remaining bit the next morning. Her plan
persisted until she told the sultan 1001 different stories such as the story of
the fisherman, the story of the first calendar, son of king, the story of
Alibaba and the 40 thieves, the story of the husband and the parrot, the story
of Aladdin and the Wonderful lamp, the adventures of prince Camaralzaman and
the princess Badoura (Borges & Weinberger, 1984), among others. It is
through the stories told by Shahrazad that saved other brides from being
murdered by the Sultan’s range for the betrayal experienced (Sallis, 2013). In
this sense the stories served as a shield and a protector to the people who
would otherwise would have been killed by the Sultan as he had been betrayal
and full of anger for the betrayal that he had experienced from his first wife.

Stories consequently can be said to have a good impact on the Sultan as he
at the end changed his mind to a large extent after the a thousand and one stories
he had been 



Publius Vergilius Maro
commonly known as Virgil is seen to have displayed all noble virtues that have
been attributed to the perfect Roman. Virgil becomes a perfect guide as a
result of presenting wisdom and reason to Dante. He explains the varying
functions and structures of Hell carefully and patiently to Dante. As he guides
Dante through the journey of the 9 different circles of Hell, he grows fond of
Dante and becomes solicitous of his welfare. The dependence of Dante towards
Virgil throughout the 9 circles make Virgil a guide in both geographical and
spiritual perspectives throughout the journey across Hell (Ryan, 1982). As the
two characters go into deeper circles of Hell, Virgil becomes a teacher to
Dante to an extent of scolding him for showing pity to persons who deserve
punishment they were receiving (Jacoff & Ball, 1991). The basic role of
Virgil in Inferno can be assumed to be a guide that hardens Dante’s heart
against possible horrible shades of Hell. This can be illustrated from the
stanza below (Dante, 2008):

“O my dear Guide, who
more than seven times

Hast rendered me
security, and drawn me

From imminent peril that
before me stood,”

 At the end of the
poem, it is evident that Virgil succeeded in his task since Dante was able to
climb Lucifer’s leg and turn upright to view the Purgatory stars ahead of him
(Black, 2017). Consequently Virgil is seen as the one who helps Dante when he
needs help most as he could not navigate through the nine circles of hell among
others and making him strong to endure the various harsh realities that life
offers human beings. After guidance, his student grasps a lot from him and
becomes way much better than he was at the beginning. 


Princess Shahrazad is
identified as a legendary storyteller to the tales’ collection of Arabian
Nights or the One Thousand and One Nights from the Middle East (Zipes &
Beaumont, 2015). Shahrazad volunteers to among one of the virgin brides to the
Persian sultan Shahryar irrespective of the dismissal of the request by her
father, grand-vizir (Mahdi & Heller-Roazen, 2010). Shahrazad displays the
image of a young beautiful woman that is both intelligent and noble who can not
only cheat death alongside the bed of the cruel Persian sultan but also
persuade his policy for daily marriage and murder through the morals acquired
from the tales she told (Borges & Weinberger, 1984). Shahrazad being a
well-educated woman with profound knowledge in philosophy, poetry, history,
legends, sciences and even arts, she exceptionally manages to touch and expose
the most burning questions and evil things about sultan Schahriar without
displeasing or irritating him (Mahdi & Heller-Roazen, 2010). She expresses
to the feminine gender how women can survive oppression and explore their
individuality through developing and getting more that the normal woman’s role
of a wife and mother in a marriage (Carlson, 2017). This is illustrated through
Shahrazad’s ability to tame Schahriar’s mood and manhood through telling
stories full of betrayal, love, sexual fantasies as well as adventure.

Schahrazad is consequently an important part of life in the life of Sultan and
she is able to make him be reasonable once again after the betrayal that
changed him. 

of Virgil and Shahrazad in Dante’s Inferno and the Arabian Nights, respectively

in Roles Shared Between Virgil and Shahrazad


Virgil uses the concept
of Hell in relation to Dante’s determination to meet with his love Beatrice to
teach him how to persevere hostile conditions such as the instance when Dante
heard a Plutus make clucking voices that made him shout, “PAPE Sat`an, Pape
Sat`an, Aleppe!”. Virgil uses his teaching skills by training Dante on the
essence of the Plutus’ suffering when he said, “let not thy fear harm thee; for
any power that he may have, shall not prevent thy going down this crag” (Dante,
2008). The responsibilities of Virgil as a teacher are hereon stretched to him
being a tour guide, father figure as well as liaison to Dante (Roffi, 2017).

Shahrazad’s teaching
attributes are not only confined to Schahriar the sultan but nearly all the
feminine readers of The Arabian Nights. The 1001 tales told by Shahrazad
at first may be thought to have entertainment purposes to Schahriar but she
crafts her stories to convey morality and justice messages to the sultan. Mahdi
and Heller-Roazen (2010) point out that most of the tales’ crafter by Shahrazad
in The Arabian Night pictured women as the root to all evil encountered. Using
this technique, Schahriar is taught the source of his rage is from his
adulterous wife yet legends who conquered were able to surpass the evil traps
set by women. Ideally, most of the tales were featured to teach the sultan the
essence of forgiveness (Sallis, 2013).


The choosing of both
Virgil and Shahrazad as guides to both Dante and Schahriar respectively to
initiated to guide the two characters to better versions of themselves. For
instance, Virgil guided Virgil both spiritually and physically through the
journey through Hell. Shahrazad on the other hand guided sultan Schahriar
through his emotional outrage on new virgin brides caused by his wife’s
betrayal. With the use of philosophical virtues, Virgil his thoughtful wisdom
to explain to Dante all the way through the nine circle of Hell and how people
from each circle deserved the suffering. In addition, refereeing to Canto 8 in
Dante’s Inferno, Dante speaks of Virgil’s guidance while sailing a boat in
their journey through Hell by asserting (Dante, 2008),

“My Guide descended down
into the boat,

And then he made me enter
after him,

And only when I entered
seemed it laden.”

Shahrazad’s ability to
transform Schahriar’s mindset on his remedy to cure his betrayal is seen as a
path of guidance through tough life experience to overcoming them and becoming
a better person. In addition, she structures down a framework used for story telling
that will keep the Sultan both entertained and curious to know what happens at
the end of the story. Shahrazad on the other hand does not become speedy in her
story telling, thus, she becomes patient and consistent in her story telling
(Borges & Weinberger, 1984).


Shahrazad uses a
strategic approach in the telling of tales to the sultan. She decided to catch
Schahriar’s attention through introducing adultery stories to attract his
attention for instance the story of the first old man and of the Hind and the
story of the merchant and the genius. Thereafter, she introduces tales of war,
love, morality, adventure and humor as well (Zipes & Beaumont, 2015). As
she tells one tale to another, she starts to build up a feminine portrait in
Schahriar’s thoughts as intelligent, strong and decisive (Mahdi &
Heller-Roazen, 2010). Some of the roles of the women in the stories of the
Arabian Nights were sorceresses, merchants, adulteresses, aged, tricksters,
mothers, noble virgins, among others. In addition, Shahrazad invented a
technique to her story telling whereby she could tell half her story in the
morning and finish the remaining bit in the even if the sultan let her live.

Since her stories made the sultan preoccupied and curious to know what happened
next, she was left to live and not hanged like other virgin mistresses the
sultan married before.

According to Wetherbee
(2008) the main reason as to why Beatrice chose Virgil to be Dante’s guide
through his journey was as a result of his human reason that was regarded to be
full of wisdom. Often times, Dante would rely on the thoughts of Virgil as if
he needed higher council from him. This can be seen when Sataius called on to
Virgil by saying, “You were the lamp that led me from that night. You led me forth
to drink Parnassian water. Then on the road to God you shed your light” (Dante,
2008). In this phrase, the light is being referred to Virgil’s intellectual
capabilities. In addition, for Virgil to know and expound extensively on the
causation and structuring of one’s punishment in the 9 circles of Hell
elaborates how intelligent he is by indirectly telling Dante some of the sins
he should not engage in or else his fate will be to face similar punishments
that he saw other individuals received in different chambers of hell (Jacoff
& Ball, 1991).

Differences in
Roles Shared Between Virgil and Shahrazad


Zipes and Beaumont (2015)
assert that feminism was the Shahrazad’s major role in the book ‘The Arabian
Nights’. This could be seen by her ability to stand for the rights of women
in a society where their place has been demeaned. One of the most significant
stories told by Shahrazad that indicated her virtue of feminism in The Arabian
Nights was the story of the slave girl Tawaddud. Through this story she
indirectly speaks of herself by presenting Tawaddud’s image as an intellectual,
educated and respectful woman since she was a slave to Baghdad. Tawaddud’s
claim for having knowledge in music, medicine, arithmetic, ancient legends,
jurisprudence, chess, poetry, grammar, backgammon, among other skills were
tested by varied med chosen by Caliph the local ruler. Even though all the men
recruited to challenge Tawaddud’s intelligence and gain the upper hand over the
slave girl, Tawaddud manages to challenge all experts brought in front of her
and emerging superior. Caliph is impressed with the girl’s skills and grants
her wish to be returned to her master and offered an allowance so that they may
enjoy life in plenty. Shahrazad concludes by instructing the sultan to admire
the eloquence of Tawaddud; hence, embrace Caliph’s generosity (Carlson, 2017).

Poetic Predecessor

Virgil acts as Dante’s
precursor for being used as a character in the poem Inferno. Virgil’s inclusion
in the poem Inferno enables Dante to improve on his poetic mastery. Also
the expertise of Virgil as a profound poet is acknowledged once Dante and
Virgil enter the limbo and he is greeted as, “the Prince of Poets” (Dante,
2008). In addition, Virgil having been given the role of the master poet in
Dante’s Inferno provides a link between the Golden age of Romanian poetry with
The Divine Comedy. Therefore, Dante is seen as the poetic successor of Virgil
(Wetherbee, 2008).


There are more similarities than differences between the roles of Virgil and
those attributed to Shahrazad. Even though the two books are diverse
ideologies, the hidden meaning to the poems from the Divine Comedy and stories
from the A Thousand and One Nights are vital not only to human history but
credible values that need to be embraced in day-in-day out life experiences. In
the Inferno, the character Virgil presents himself as not only a guide through
Dante’s journey to hell but also as a teacher through his use of human reason
even though he is presented in the form of a poetic predecessor. Shahrazad on
the other hand mostly displays her role of feminism in the past history of the
Islamic Golden age. Her stories are not only featured on cunning and persuading
the sultan not to kill her but also save the lives of other virgin girls who
were to be brides to Schahriar and hanged the next morning. She portrays the
capability of a woman to use her intellectual skills to survive.