hiIndian dramas characteristically focus on the critical tension between duty and desire that is aesthetically manifest in the relation of the heroic sentiment to the romantic or pathetic.
With its semi divine characters, the Sakuntala is the model of the most elevated Indian dramatic form, which may be classed as “heroic romance.” Indian heroic romances represent human emotions in a theatrical universe of symbolically charged characters and events in order to lead the audience into a state of extraordinary pleasure and insight. The goal is to establish emotional harmony in the microcosm of the theater by exploring the deeper relations that bind apparent conflicts of experience. Kalidasa’s dramas focus on the critical tension between desire and duty that is aesthetically manifest in the relation of the erotic sentiment to the heroic. His dramas achieve their aesthetic and moral impact not through conflicts of individuals but through the perennial human conflict between desire and duty. In the Sakuntala, the hero and heroine are the main dramatic vehicles for exposing the states of mind of the poet and his audience. They are supported by clusters of characters who, like them, appear as symbolic personalities defined by social position, gender, and language.
King Dusyanta, who is expressed according to the norms of classical social and dramatic theory. The high qualities of kingship he possesses qualify him to be called a “royal sage.” This epithet signifies that the king’s spiritual power is equal to his martial strength and moral superiority. The ideal royal sage is a figure of enormous physical strength who also has the power to control his senses.
Sakuntala is the daughter born of a union between the nymph Menaka and the royal sage Visvamitra. She is a beautiful nymph whose spontaneous love embraces the hero and leads him beyond the world of everyday experience into the imaginative universe where dichotomies of sensual desire and sacred duty...