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Tales of Dreaming Men

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Shakespeare, “The Old Hunchback,” and “The Sleeper and the Waker”

image of Journal of World Literature

From the nineteenth century to the present, scholars and writers have perceived strong parallels between the 1001 Nights and early modern European literary works. The 1001 Nights tale of “The Sleeper and the Waker,” has been seen as a source for the frame of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (1595). Other scholars are skeptical of the ease with which such analogues are postulated from the vantage point of Weltliteratur, and frequently point to the missing links in speculative chains of transmission. This article examines a variant tale of “The Sleeper and the Waker,” found in a Tunisian manuscript of A Hundred and One Nights, to show that divergences between Shakespeare’s Christopher Sly and Abu al-Hasan in “The Sleeper and the Waker” reflect distinctive characteristics of the 1001 Nights story collection. Such manuscript discoveries allow scholars to probe the parallels between these tales and the literatures of early modern Europe.

Affiliations: 1: New York University Abu Dhabi


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