The drama has had a rich and varied development in India, as is shown not only by the numerous plays that have been preserved, but by the native treatises on poetics which contain elaborate rules for the construction and style of plays. Thus the Sāhitya-darpaṇa, or "Mirror of Rhetoric," divides Sanskrit dramas into two main classes, a higher (rūpaka) and a lower (uparūpaka), and distinguishes no fewer than ten species of the former and eighteen of the latter.
The characteristic features of the Indian drama which strike the Western student are the entire absence of tragedy, the interchange of lyrical stanzas with prose dialogue, and the use of Sanskrit for some characters and of Prākrit for others.
The Sanskrit drama is a mixed composition, in which joy is mingled with sorrow, in which the jester usually plays a prominent part, while the hero and heroine are often in the depths of despair. But it never has a sad ending. The emotions of terror, grief, or pity, with which the audience are inspired, are therefore always tranquillised by the happy termination of the story. Nor may any deeply tragic incident take place in the course of the play; for death is never allowed to be represented on the stage. Indeed nothing considered indecorous, whether of a serious or comic character, is allowed to be enacted in the sight or hearing of the spectators, such as the utterance of a curse, degradation, banishment, national calamity, biting, scratching, kissing, eating, or sleeping.
Sanskrit plays are full of lyrical passages describing scenes or persons presented to view, or containing reflections suggested by the incidents that occur. They usually consist of four-line stanzas. Çakuntalā contains