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Little Clay Cart


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AT: The Toy Cart A: ? King Sūdraka W: ? 5th c. ad Tr: 1905 G: Drama in 10 acts and a prologue; Sanskrit prose and verse S: City in northern India (Ujjayini), 3rd c. ad C: 21m, 7f, extrasChārudatta, an impoverished and pious Brahmin, is loved by Vasantasenā, a courtesan, who is pursued by the oafish but evil prince Sansthānaka. Fleeing to Chārudatta's house, Vasantasenā leaves jewels with him for safekeeping. A burglar steals the jewels, and when the theft is discovered Chārudatta's wife nobly gives away her necklace to replace the loss. The burglar Sharvilaka has stolen the jewels in order to buy the freedom of Vasantasenā's maid and is alarmed to discover that he is now returning the jewels to their owner. He therefore pretends to be a servant of Chārudatta bringing back the jewels. Soon after, another servant comes, claiming that Chārudatta has gambled away Vasantasenā's jewels and offering the necklace in its place. Vasantasena now journeys to Chārudatta through a storm, returns the jewels to him, they embrace, and she becomes his slave. Vasantasenā offers to return the necklace to Chārudatta's wife, but when the latter gracefully declines, Vasantasenā fills with jewellery a little clay cart, a toy belonging to Chārudatta's son. A bullock cart is prepared to take Vasantasenā to a tryst with Chārudatta, and Aryaka, an exiled prince fleeing from persecution, leaps into it to escape. Brought to Chārudatta, the latter offers to protect Aryaka. By mistake Vasantasenā travels in another bullock cart which brings her to the evil Sansthānaka. When she rejects his advances, he strangles her and leaves her for dead. On Sansthānaka's testimony, Chārudatta is convicted of the murder, and just as he is to be executed, is saved by the reappearance of Vasantasenā, who revived from the strangling. Chārudatta is freed, Sansthānaka's evil is exposed, and news comes that Aryaka has been restored to the throne.

AT: The Toy Cart A: ? King Sūdraka W: ? 5th c. ad Tr: 1905 G: Drama in 10 acts and a prologue; Sanskrit prose and verse S: City in northern India (Ujjayini), 3rd c. ad C: 21m, 7f, extras

Shakuntala and The Little Clay Cart are the two great classics of Sanskrit drama, the former based on legends depicting heroes and gods (nataka), the latter an invented story in a primarily domestic setting (prakarana). It is a very long play, including incidental passages of poetic description and comic action, and containing characters familiar the world over: the noble and patient hero (Chārudatta), the foolish and vicious tyrant (Sansthānaka), the devoted lover (Vasantasenā), a parasite, a fool, a burglar with good intentions, comic policemen – even the executioners are allowed a few laughs. While this classic Sanskrit drama does not portray the powerful interior conflicts of Western tragedy, it is immensely rich and theatrical.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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