Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 447
Grief must be shared to be endured.
While the ending of Śakuntalā takes an upward turn, Dushyanta's initial failure to recognize Śakuntalā arrives as a moment of tragedy. Much of the emotional power of the play comes from seeing Śakuntalā's grief during this period, as well as her strength in surviving it by turning to others for solace.
A good man never lets grief get the upper hand. The mountains are calm even in a tempest.
Here, Kālidāsa continues to explore the experience of confronting grief and loss. These lines suggest an incredible level of stoicism. Śakuntalā is a legendary figure in large part because of the way in which she manages to endure when her lover forgets and rejects her, showing her independence and strength of character. She is much more than simply a beautiful woman, and she is not defined by her relationships with men.
A thought is as vivid as an act, to a lover.
Śakuntalā is a classic romantic tale, one primarily interested in illustrating the beauty and joy of love. Through lines such as the one above, Śakuntalā lets audiences feel the emotional rush of the lovers as they embark upon a relationship and to feel the legendary significance of their love, which will eventually lead to the birth of Bharata and his dynasty. For an extended portion of their time together, Dushyanta and Śakuntalā remain somewhat restrained, unsure if their love is requited. Dushyanta is concerned when he thinks Śakuntalā is of common birth, and Śakuntalā is wary of rushing into a marriage. Between these delays and their time apart, much of the play shows the lovers pining for each other but not necessarily acting on their wishes.
Did the great Creator first draw her in a masterpiece,
And then touch life into his art?
Or did he make her in his mind alone,
Drawing on beauty’s every part?
No—considering her singular perfection
And her maker’s true omnipotence,
I suppose her some quite unique creation
In femininity’s treasure house.
Śakuntalā is described in rich passages such as this, from W. J. Johnson's translation, as an incredible beauty and an exceptional woman. Venerated in some strands of Hinduism, she is a legendary figure of motherhood and love.
Because your heart, by loving fancies blinded,
Has scorned a guest in pious life grown old,
Your lover shall forget you though reminded,
Or think of you as of a story told.
With these lines, Śakuntalā is cursed by the sage Durvasa, which creates the primary conflict of the tale. Her lover, Dushyanta, fails to recognize her until they are reunited in the heavens at the end of the play.