Page:A history of Sanskrit literature (1900), Macdonell, Arthur Anthony.djvu/363

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case where influence or borrowing is absolutely out of the question, is an instructive instance of how similar developments can arise independently.

Every Sanskrit play begins with a prologue or introduction, which regularly opens with a prayer or benediction (nāndī) invoking the national deity in favour of the audience. Then generally follows a dialogue between the stage-manager and one or two actors, which refers to the play and its author, seeks to win public favour by paying a complimentary tribute to the critical acumen of the spectators, mentions past events and present circumstances elucidating the plot, and invariably ends by adroitly introducing one of the characters of the actual play. A Sanskrit drama is divided into scenes and acts. The former are marked by the entrance of one character and the exit of another. The stage is never left vacant till the end of the act, nor does any change of locality take place till then. Before a new act an interlude (called vishkambha or praveçaka), consisting of a monologue or dialogue, is often introduced. In this scene allusion is made to events supposed to have occurred in the interval, and the audience are prepared for what is about to take place. The whole piece closes with a prayer for national prosperity, which is addressed to the favourite deity and is spoken by one of the principal characters.

The number of acts in a play varies from one to ten; but, while fluctuating somewhat, is determined by the character of the drama. Thus the species called nāṭikā has four acts and the farcical prahasana only one.

The duration of the events is supposed to be identical with the time occupied in performing them on the stage, or, at most, a day; and a night is assumed to elapse