Places: Śakuntalā

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: c. 45 b.c.e. or c. 395 c.e.

First produced: Abhijnānaśākuntala, c. 45 b.c.e. or c. 395 c.e. (English translation, 1789)

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Love

Time of work: Golden Age of India

Places DiscussedSacred forest

Sacred Śakuntalāforest. Site where King Dushyanta is hunting as the play opens and where he meets and falls in love with Śakuntalā. He is an intruder in the forest, in contrast to Śakuntalā, who considers animals and plants her kin. Local religious devotees ask Dushyanta, who is devout, not to kill any animals in the vicinity; he assents, but his presence nonetheless upsets the balance of life in the forest, much as Śakuntalā’s visit to his palace later in the play upsets the established order there.

King Dushyanta’s palace

King Dushyanta’s palace. Here Śakuntalā comes to plead her case with the king, who, due to a curse, has no memory of their love. Courtiers declaim elaborate, somewhat artificial poetry whose nature imagery ironically echoes earlier, happier scenes. Significantly, it is only when Dushyanta retreats to his garden, where he has been attempting to paint a picture of Śakuntalā’s forest home–another artificial reach toward nature’s authenticity–that deliverance from his troubles comes: a summons from Indra, chief of the gods. He requests Dushyanta’s help in defeating a powerful demon.

Sacred grove of Kashyapa

Sacred grove of Kashyapa (KAWSH-yuh-puh). After triumph in battle, Dushyanta comes here to worship. His faith and his service to Indra are rewarded: He is reunited with Śakuntalā and meets, for the first time, their son, who shows signs of future valor. As in act 1, the action is set in a sacred wood, but now both Dushyanta and Śakuntalā have been brought into harmony with the setting through their devotion and selfless service.

BibliographyBose, Mandakranta. Supernatural Intervention in “The Tempest” and “Śakuntalā.” Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universitat Salzburg, 1980. Explains the basis for comparing these two works; focuses on the important structural function of supernatural forces in them, noting how the structure of society in which they live affects the writers’ use of such mythic devices in their dramas.Harris, Mary B. Kālidāsa: Poet of Nature. Boston: Meador Press, 1936. Thematic study of Kālidāsa’s use of nature in his plays. Concentrates on analysis of Śakuntalā and the writer’s other major dramatic works. Analyzes several of Kālidāsa’s nondramatic writings.Krishnamoorthy, K. Kālidāsa. New York: Twayne, 1972. Introduction to the writer and his works. Describes Śakuntalā as a play about the raptures and torments of love, highlighting important Indian values: “duty, property, love, and spiritual good.”Miller, Barbara Stoler, ed. Theater of Memory: The Plays of Kālidāsa. New York: Columbia University Press, 1984. Excellent introduction to the writer’s major dramatic works; commentary on Śakuntalā emphasizes its major themes and the playwright’s mastery of dramatic techniques. Bibliography of secondary sources.Wells, Henry W. “Theatrical Techniques on the Sanskrit Stage.” In The Classical Drama of India. New York: Asia Publishing House, 1963. Examines the theatrical qualities of Śakuntalā, focusing on construction of scenes, dialogue, and development of dramatic tensions that reach a climax in the final act.
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