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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 325

The Little Clay Cart is an ancient Indian play, originally written in Sanskrit, and generally attributed to Shudraka. It follows the story of a married, high-caste man, Chārudatta, who has come upon hard times but who who falls in love with a courtesan.

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In the opening of the play, Vasantasenā is pursued in the street by Sansthānaka who propositions her. However, Vasantasenā is uninterested in his advances and Sansthānaka is advised by the courtier to stop pursuing her:

To hold a horse, you need a rein;
To hold an elephant, a chain;
To hold a woman, use a heart;
And if you haven't one, depart.

Later in the play, Chārudatta receives a messenger from Vasantasenā announcing the latter's forthcoming visit. By the time Vasantasenā arrives, a storm has started to gather (this will ultimately force Vasantasenā to spend the night with Chārudatta). Vasantasenā describes the storm:

The clouds hang drooping to the mountain peaks,
Like a maiden's heart, that distant lover seeks:
The peacocks startle, when the thunder booms,
And fan the heaven with all their jeweled plumes.

In the play's final act, Chārudatta is set to be executed (though the last minute intervention of Aryaka stops the death sentence from being carried out). As he is being led to his death, Chārudatta's son, Rohasena, is upset. Chārudatta bluntly informs him of his fate:

About my neck I needs must wear
The oleander-wreath;
Upon my shoulder I must bear
The stake, and in my heart the care
Of near-approaching death.
I go to-day to meet a dastard's ending,
A victim, at the fatal altar bending.

Fittingly, Chārudatta speaks the last lines of the play, reflecting on his torments and redemption of the preceding period:

Fate plays with us like buckets at the well,
Where one is filled, and one an empty shell,
Where one is rising, while another falls;
And shows how life is change—now heaven, now hell.

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