Anasuya and Priyamvada enter, talking about how well Shakuntala’s secret marriage is working out. But Anasuya worries what will happen now that the King’s business at the ashram has concluded: “Who can say whether he’ll remember what’s happened in the forest?”
Shakuntala’s and Dusyanta’s marriage is going well, but the King has been called back to his duties in the capital. Though Anasuya speaks metaphorically of the distractions of the city, her remark also foreshadows the literal forgetting to come.
They hear a visitor announcing himself. It’s Durvasas, a short-tempered sage. They hear him pronouncing a curse: “That man, though prompted, / Shall not remember you at all, / Like a drunken sot, who cannot recall / What he said in his cups the night before.” The girls realize that Shakuntala has, disastrously, failed to welcome Durvasas with the formality he expects. Priyamvada rushes to placate him, and Durvasas concedes that “the sight of a memento can lift the curse.” The girls relax, recalling the ring Dusyanta has given Shakuntala.
Shakuntala grieves her separation from Dusyanta to the point that she neglects her duties at the ashram. Because hospitality is a sacred duty, failing to welcome an important guest would be considered a significant fault. However, the cranky Durvasas has an extreme reaction—placing a curse on Dusyanta, that he won’t remember Shakuntala when he sees her again. Remembering the signet ring Dusyanta gave her, the girls assume all will be well, but as the play goes on to reveal, such curses can have consequences that range far beyond the simple human circumstances in which they originated.
Shakuntala is full of grief in Dusyanta’s absence. Anasuya frets about the King’s failure to even send a letter, worrying that he’s faithless after all, or has been affected by Durvasas’s curse. She also fears how Kanva will react now that Shakuntala is carrying Dusyanta’s child.
Separation from the King causes all sorts of worries, especially now that Shakuntala is pregnant with his child. Even for such a happy couple, the threats of supernatural intervention and human secrecy are ever-present.
Suddenly Priyamvada appears, delighted—they are to celebrate Shakuntala’s departure as a bride. It turns out that Kanva, while making a sacrifice, heard a voice chanting the news: “For the world’s welfare your daughter / Bears the lustrous seed of King Dusyanta.” Kanva is happily sending her to her husband with an escort of seers.
The girls’ concerns about Kanva’s reaction to Shakuntala’s marriage and pregnancy were unfounded, it turns out. Kanva is happy to learn that his foster daughter carries a royal child, and he’s ready to reunite husband and wife with due honor. At this point, it seems that duty and love will become one for Shakuntala, though it will actually turn out to be some time before they are fully united.
Priyamvada, Anasuya, and the other hermit women shower Shakuntala with blessings. They also adorn her with ornaments which the forest trees have miraculously provided: “It was a tree itself spun this moon-white cloth / […] And gods of the trees that conjured these jewels, / Hands sprouting from branches like fresh green shoots.” Priyamvada takes this as a sign of the royal fortune awaiting Shakuntala.
The women celebrate Shakuntala’s marriage and her impending departure to join her royal household. The trees, so lovingly tended by Shakuntala, fashion miraculous adornments for her to wear—the natural world once again reflects the emotional state of human beings, and the blessings of the trees are another form of the supernatural forces common throughout the play.
The trees of the forest bless Shakuntala, and she and Kanva share an emotional farewell. As Shakuntala bids goodbye to her favorite tree, the Light of the Forest, Kanva comments that Shakuntala has attracted the very husband he would’ve wanted for her: “And now the jasmine and the mango / Have entwined, I have no worries left.” She tearfully says goodbye to Priyamvada and Anasuya, and they remind her to show Dusyanta the ring he gave her, in case he’s slow to recognize her.
Shakuntala bids goodbye to the pair of trees she’d compared to a married couple in Act I; she and Dusyanta appear here to be the personification of the trees’ “romance.” Everything appears to be going auspiciously as Shakuntala leaves her native hermitage for her new life in the capital. But her friends remind her of the signet ring, foreshadowing the ongoing effects of Durvasas’s curse.