King Dushyanta is hunting in the forest one day when he stumbles across a hermitage. The king wants to kill a deer, but one of the hermits living there raises a hand and tells him that the deer belongs to the hermitage. As with other characters throughout the play, the hermit expresses himself in verse:
Restore your arrow to the quiver;
To you were weapons lent
The broken-hearted to deliver,
Not strike the innocent.
The king duly does so, earning the hermit's fulsome praise. The father of the hermitage has gone away to Somatirtha in order to avert an evil fate that awaits his daughter. In the meantime, he has left his daughter to welcome guests.
While standing in the shade, Dushyanta sees the arrival of a couple of hermit girls carrying water pots. One of them is Shakuntala. As soon as he lays eyes on the girls, the king is most impressed by their beauty, and exclaims how charming they are.
Once he's established Shakuntala's identity, the king expresses dissatisfaction that the Father hermit should make such a beautiful young lady wear a bark dress:
And this is Kanva's daughter, Shakuntala. The good Father does wrong to make her wear the hermit's dress of bark.
With her extraordinary beauty, Shakuntala looks somewhat out of place in this remote, isolated spot, where asceticism and self-denial are the order of the day. Even so, Dushyanta rows back from his previous remarks and proclaims that the bark dress that Shakuntala is wearing, far from being an enemy to her beauty, is actually an ornament.