, Volume 82, Issue 3, pp 335–356 | Cite as

King, Queen, Master, Slave: The Master/slave Dialectic & the Thousand and One Nights

  • Daniel Beaumont


Previous critical analyses of the Frame Story of The 1001 Nights, the story of Shahrazad and King Shahriyar, have overlooked the importance of the slave's role in the narrative of betrayal and revenge. This article makes use of Hegel's master/slave dialectic, in particular as that dialectic is reflected in the work of Jacques Lacan, to understand the critical role played by the slave in the story. It shows that the roles of master and slave are not fixed with any characters, but rather are occupied successively by different characters. Shahriyar's crisis is seen as an imaginary deadlock in Lacanian terms. Shahrazad, who refuses the role of the slave, breaks the deadlock and introduces him into the symbolic order. Her means of doing this, her method of narration, may be compared to Freud's Fort/Da game.


Critical Role Critical Analysis Comparative Literature Historical Linguistic Symbolic Order 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Beaumont
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Religion and ClassicsUniversity of RochesterRochesterU.S.A.

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