Shakuntala is immortal to Indian literature, as Kalidasa is to India. It portrays a world of righteousness where truth ultimately triumphs over the unattainable. The story deals with the fall of Shakuntala and her elevation to a spiritual status. The story of Shakuntala is often compared to the Ramayana in its outline. However , Shakuntala presents a realistic story and realistic characters. The characters are not ideals or theories as in the Ramayana. As compared to Rama, Dushyantha is more life-like.
We find the aesthetic hermitage of Shakuntala serene, and the forest devoid of all evil. Shakuntala’s friends are more concerned about her than themselves. Their very names add to their virtue. ‘Priyamvada’ means one who speaks sweet words and ‘anasuya’ means one devoid of jealousy.The trio are very hospitable. At the outset, they do not not realise that Dushyantha is a king when he calls upon them. They offer him all forms of hospitability and make him feel at home. Dushyantha gradually reveals his identity. But prior to that there is a mention of perfect protection over the kingdom Dushyantha rules over . The kingdom is portrayed as a typical Eden.
Dusyantha falls in love with Shakuntala, and is enthralled to find that she is attracted to him in the same manner. Shakuntala and Dushyantha do not wait for the actual rites of marriage and engage themselves in a secret marriage. They do not even wait for the return of Kanva and let their love and passion rule over.
Dushyantha leaves Shakuntala and goes to his kingdom. Thr reason is not provided by Kalidasa why he does so. After reaching there he delves into oblivion. Unlike, Rama he does not abandon her of his own will. It is as a result of Durvasa’s curse. The sage curses Shakuntala for his neglect of duties towards him. Thus the “tragic flaw’ in the heroine proves to be her preoccupation with love. Once she commits the mistake, she repents over it. She loses a signet given to her as a gift from Dushyantha. It proves to be a major short-coming on her part ; when she wants to convince the king , she cannot, as she has lost the ring. Nevertheless, fate does not allow her to suffer endlessly. Durvasa’s curse was too severe for her minor offence. She is lifted to a spiritual status by a fairy.
Eventually Dushyantha gets the signet and recollects everything. He repents and makes amends for his past sins. He plunges into melancholy. Fate forgives him and finally unites him with his beloved