How does Shakuntala represents the feminine ideal of Indian women and when does she fall short of that ideal?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I would say that Shakuntala represents the feminine ideal of the Indian woman in a few ways.  On one hand, she has much in way of loyalty to Dushyanta.  Even after he cannot recognize her, Shakuntala does not seek the comfort of another man.  She is completely devoted to him and when she is hurt by his inability to recognize her, she tends to her son and remains on her own, maintaining her high sense of virtue and loyalty to her one and true love. In this light, she suffers for her love, which makes her representative of much of the feminine tradition in Indian Literature.  It is difficult to identify where she would fall short of the measurement of what literature defines as an "ideal" woman.  Perhaps, a small argument can be made that when she fails to greet the sage properly and act in accordance to the manner that a guest deserves, one could suggest that this is where she falls short of this supposed ideal.  Yet, all of this presupposes an external standard that has been defined through the literature.  As a character, I find more powerful and redemptive in the Shakuntala narrative than anything else.