What Are the Roles of Women in "Arabian Nights"?

Because there are so many stories encompassed in "Arabian Nights," women play a variety of roles. The female characters in the stories range from devoted wives to deceitful villains, chaste and innocent maidens to vixens. Most of the women, however, are not endowed with much agency of their own.

Critics of the "Arabian Nights" stories often point to the fact that women are often viewed as prizes or objects of pleasure who are very rarely given their own voices. The frame story, however, is of Shahrazad, a cunning woman who tells her king the stories laid out in "Arabian Nights" as a means to distract him from murdering the rest of his harem, thus saving her fellow courtesans.