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Shakuntala: Prologue Summary & Analysis

The play opens with a benediction, seeking the Lord Shiva’s protection of all those present. The benediction calls upon the eight physical embodiments of Shiva, including water, fire, earth, and breath.
Plays at this time were preceded by various rituals, of which this blessing would have been the last. Because benedictions could only be pronounced by brahmins (priests, who made up the highest Hindu social caste), the play’s manager, if he was a brahmin, might have performed this role.
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The actor-manager and an actress discuss the play about to be performed, a new romance by Kalidasa. The manager asks the actress to sing a song about summer to set the mood for the audience. The actress sings a romantic song about a mimosa blossom brushed by bees. The manager says approvingly that the song carried him away, “Just as the headlong rush of a spotted deer / Carries this king, Dusyanta, into our play.”
The exchange between the manager and actress serves as an introduction to the play for the audience. The actress’s song sets a romantic tone for the play, sweeping the audience into a state of rapture, as was the goal of a classical Indian playwright. The manager segues smoothly into the action of the play’s opening act.
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