Shakuntala

Themes and Colors
The Natural World, The Body, and Spiritual Beauty Theme Icon
Duty vs. Love Theme Icon
Prophecies and Curses Theme Icon
Concealment and Separation Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Shakuntala, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Recognition of Shakuntala, the greatest work by classical Indian playwright Kalidasa and perhaps the most renowned Sanskrit play, is a very lush work. The setting is marked by the beauties of the forested Himalayan foothills, where the young hermitage-dwelling girl, Shakuntala, falls in love with King Dusyanta. As the action develops—Shakuntala and the King falling in love, being separated by a curse, and ultimately reuniting, after years of grief-filled waiting, in…

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Throughout Shakuntala, duty and love are closely intertwined. This connection is in keeping with the importance of dharma (duty) in Hindu practice at the time. Dharma, along with artha (material success) and kama (desire), was understood to be one of the primary goals of human existence, while the ultimate goal of that existence was to attain moksha, or liberation from worldly existence. In the play, there is particular tension between dharma and…

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Throughout Shakuntala, supernatural beings like gods and nymphs, powerful utterances like sages’ prophecies and curses, and even bodily omens experienced by the main characters are ever-present. In fact, none of the main events would take place if it weren’t for such supernatural interventions into human events. Such interventions appear to work outside the limits of human plans and intentions, suggesting that, in the play, they’re meant to signal to audiences the inscrutability—and inevitability— of…

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In Shakuntala, there is a multi-layered exploration of concealment and revelation, which occurs most clearly in the complete hiddenness of Shakuntala and Dusyanta from one another during their six-year separation brought about by a curse. The lesser concealments in the story, such as hidden emotions, the ring swallowed by the fish, and people’s grief-altered appearances, mirror the central one: the secret of the couple’s marriage giving way, at last, to public acknowledgement of their…

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