The play tells the story of the love of King Agnimitra, the Shunga king of Vidisha, for the beautiful hand-maiden of his chief queen. He falls in love with the picture of an exiled servant girl named Mālavikā. He must resort to the help of his jester and play a game of subterfuge merely to look at the new girl. When the queen discovers her husband's passion for this girl, she becomes infuriated and has Mālavikā imprisoned, but as fate would have it, in the end she is discovered to be of royal birth and is accepted as one of his queens.
The play contains an account of the Rajasuya sacrifice performed by Pushyamitra, and an elaborate exposition of a theory on music and acting.