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  • 2/16/2011

Leyli and Majnun

part 2

leilyvamajnoon

Analysis of the story

Leyli and Majnun was not the first Arabic romance to be versified in Persian. ?Ayyuqi’s Varqa and Golshah comes first and Nezami adapted several narrative elements from this romance: the lovers meeting in school; war between two clans; the insertion of gazal s, protecting virginity, and their grave as sites of pilgrimage. Nezami composed his romance at the request of the ruler of Azerbaijan, SHervanshah A?setan, in the meter hazaj-e mosaddas-e a?rab-e maqbuz-e ma?duf. Nezami initially doubted that this simple story about the agony and pain of an Arab boy wandering in rough mountains and burning deserts would be a suitable subject for his cultured audience.

It was his son who persuaded him to undertake the project, saying: “wherever tales of love are read, this will add spice to them.” It seems as if Nezami did not want to spend much time on it, for he states that he would have composed the whole story in even less than four months if he had not had other things to do.

Despite his initial reluctance, Nezami writes a story from Majnun’s birth until his death, with a clear climax. Since the plot is thin, Nezami inserted many descriptions of nature which have several narrative functions in the romance: indicating time and setting, forming a decorative backdrop for an episode, providing a meditative pause, or reflecting the mental and physical conditions of the protagonists. When the desperate Majnun complains to heaven about his wretched state, Nezami places him in a setting in which he gives an animated description of a night laden with stars and all constellations. In his description, Nezami follows Fa?r-al-Din Gorgani’s description of the night in Vis o Ramin (Seyed-Gohrab, 2003, pp. 314-19). Likewise, when Leyli desires to see Majnun, she is placed in an exquisitely designed palm grove in spring. Analogous to this vernal garden, Leyli’s death is placed in a gloomy garden in autumn. Nezami’s treatment of the female characters, especially Leyli, is completely different from the existing anecdotes. Despite the patriarchal setting of the original story and the limited role of women in it, Nezami allots a more active role to Leyli. She composes exquisite poems, and takes the initiative in arranging meetings with Majnun. To prove her fidelity to Majnun, she fights for her virginity against her wedded husband, Ebn Salam: she slaps him in the face. Nezami’s portrayal of Leyli’s character raises several questions about the role of women in such stories. Leyli’s loyalty lies with Majnun, but she remains obedient to her father and faithful to her husband. While married, she does not share her bed with her husband and even arranges secret meetings with Majnun. But when Majnun comes near her, she reminds him that she is married and any physical contact is against the religious code. Nezami reveals her dilemmas in a medieval patriarchal society, emphasizing the problems generated by a closed society in which there is no freedom of choice in selecting a marriage partner, and tribal fealty and religious tenets come first.

As in Arabic sources, Nezami refers to Majnun’s poetic genius at least thirty times (Seyed-Gohrab, 2003, pp. 187-89). He is presented as a poet who is able to compose dazzling poetry in various poetic genres. As in other Udri stories, the language of his poetry is devotional. Nezami puts love poems and elegies in Majnun’s mouth, which can be seen as psychological self-analysis displaying his frustrations and reasons for his actions. In his comments on Majnun’s speech, the narrator always takes his side, a fact that influences the reader’s interpretation.

As well as being engagingly written, the poem also has a strong moral undertone, depicting the way mundane and earthly love are transfigured into a sublime spiritual force.

 Nezami operates at the boundary of the profane and mystic, although he leans more towards mystical concepts. One important aspect of love the poet shows is that a pure mystical and God-centered love creates havoc when focused on an object in a human society and in an earthly setting. Through the character of Majnun as an ideal lover who becomes entirely absorbed by love, Nezami skillfully shows how the lover’s situation and condition correspond to those of an ascetic; indeed, asceticism is given as an alternative. When Majnun’s character is viewed as an ascetic, he observes the basic principles of abstinence such as celibacy, mortification, silence, seclusion, sleep deprivation and avoidance of food. In pictorial presentations, Majnun is depicted as an emaciated ascetic. Nezami shows that the experiences of a lover and of an ascetic are similar, except that an ascetic acts intentionally whereas a lover is afflicted by the force of love. In the prologue and epilogue, Nezami imparts pieces of advice to the reader about various themes including life’s transience, death, humility, etc.

Source: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com


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