The play Shakuntala, one of few surviving Sanskrit plays, is written according to the guidelines in the Natya Sastra, an ancient text that describes Sanskrit drama as it should be performed. One of the basic tenants of this text is that plays should be written to describe a rasa, or central idea of the work.
I believe that the play most strongly displays the rasa that corresponds to compassion and tragedy. The emotion that accompanies this rasa is sorrow. The audience may feel compassion for the King and Shakuntala because they are not together as they wish they were in the beginning of the play. The whole point of a rasa is to elicit emotions from an audience as well as the actor onstage, and this relatable situation does just that. The play also follows the Natya Sastra by ending on a more positive note, because Sanskrit dramas always find a way to leave the audience happier than when they came in.
The first three acts demonstrate the rasa of love and sensuality, which also expresses the emotion of love. During these acts the King and Shakuntala long for each other, which expresses this emotion well. They go into detail about how they long for each other and the physical characteristics that they admire in the other.
The acts in between represent a series of rasa, varying from aversion to wonder and amazement. The plot is unfolded and focused through the use of these rasa to elicit emotions at particular times in the text.
Act seven completes the guidelines of the Natya Sastra by coming to a happy conclusion and therefore eliciting the rasa of love and the complimentary emotion. This also brings on the 9th and final rasa, that of peace and a feeling of happiness upon leaving the production. Works Cited
"Rasa (aesthetics)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 01 Oct. 2013. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.
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