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Shakuntala


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AT: Sakuntalā; The Lost/ Recovered/ Fatal Ring A: Kālidāsa W: ? 5th c. ad Tr: 1761 G: Drama in 7 acts and a prologue; Sanskrit verse and prose S: A hermitage in the Himalayas, King Dushyanta's palace in Hastinapura, and a sacred grove, in the mythical past C: 16m, 14f, extrasAfter a formal prologue, with introduction and song, the action starts. While hunting a gazelle, King Dushyanta enters a hermitage in the mountains, where he encounters Shakuntala and falls in love at once. She too falls in love with the stranger, at first unaware that he is the King. They are betrothed, but Dushyanta must return to the city. Because her love has caused her to neglect her religious duties, Shakuntala is cursed by an angry sage. At first she is condemned to be forgotten by her husband; then the punishment is relaxed to allow Dushyanta to be reminded of her by the ring that he gave her. When she hears nothing from him, Shakuntala, who has by now discovered that she is pregnant, sets off for the city. There Dushyanta refuses to recognize her, since she has lost the ring while bathing. A priest at court cares for her until she has given birth to her child, and she is given sanctuary in a sacred grove. Meanwhile a fisherman arrives at court with a ring that he has found in the belly of a fish. Seeing his ring again, Dushyanta remembers his bride and recalls with horror his rejection of her. He is then summoned by the god Indra to fight against demons. After successfully winning the battle, he finds himself in a sacred grove, where he is reconciled with Shakuntala and encounters his son. The reunited family returns joyfully to Dushyanta's palace.

AT: Sakuntalā; The Lost/ Recovered/ Fatal Ring A: Kālidāsa W: ? 5th c. ad Tr: 1761 G: Drama in 7 acts and a prologue; Sanskrit verse and prose S: A hermitage in the Himalayas, King Dushyanta's palace in Hastinapura, and a sacred grove, in the mythical past C: 16m, 14f, extras

Shakuntala, based on a story from the Mahabharata, represents the high point of ancient Indian drama. The themes of purity of love and patient acceptance of the will of the gods are characteristic of the genre. It is significant that Dushyanta should be plagued by guilt when he sees the ring, even though he could not have acted otherwise. In this respect the play, despite its comic conclusion, has elements of tragedy, familiar from the guilt felt by Oedipus, even though he too acted in ignorance.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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