The following biography was originally published in This History of Nations: India. William W. Hunter. Philadelphia: John D. Morris and Company, 1906. p. 54.
The father of the Sanskrit drama is Kalidasa. According to Hindu tradition, he was one of the "nine gems," or distinguished men at the court of Vikramaditya, king of Ujjain, in 57 B.C., but as a matter of fact there were several king Vikramadityas, and the one under whom Kalidasa flourished appears to have ruled over Malwa in the sixth century A.D.
The most famous drama of Kalidasa is Sakuntala, or the Lost Ring. Like the ancient Sanskrit epics, it divides its action between the court of the king and the hermitage in the forest. Prince Dushyanta, an ancestor of the noble lunar race, weds a beautiful Brahman girl, Sakuntala, at her father's retreat in the jungle. Before returning to his capital, he gives his bride a ring as a pledge of his love; but, smitten by a curse from a Brahman, she loses the ring, and cannot be recognized by her husband till it is found. Sakuntala bears a son in her loneliness, and sets out to claim recognition for herself and child at her husband's court, but she is as one unknown to the prince, till, after many sorrows and trials, the ring comes to light. She is then happily reunited with her husband, and her son grows up to be the noble Bharata, the chief founder of the lunar dynasty, whose achievements form the theme of the Mahabharata. Sakuntala is a type of the chaste and faithful Hindu wife; and her love and sorrow, after forming the favorite romance of the Indian people for perhaps eighteen hundred years, supplied a theme for Goethe, in the Vorspiel auf dem Theater prefixed to his Faust.
The following biography was originally published in Cosmos. Alexander von Humboldt. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1860. pp. 50-51.
The name of Kalidasa was early and widely known among the Western nations. This great poet flourished in the highly cultivated court of Vikramaditya, and was consequently the contemporary of Virgil and Horace. The English and German translations of the Sacontala have added to the admiration which has been so freely yielded to this poet, whose tenderness of feeling and richness of creative fancy entitle him to a high place in the ranks of the poets of all nations. The charm of his descriptions of nature is strikingly exemplified in the beautiful drama Vikrama and Urvasi, where the king wanders through the thickets of the forest in search of the nymph Urvasi; in the poems of The Seasons; and in that of The Messenger of Clouds (Meghaduta). This last poem describes with admirable truth to nature the joy with which, after long drought, the first appearance of a rising cloud is hailed as a harbinger of the approaching season of rain.
Browse Ancient Theatre Database