The Swan and the Princes is a short play that describes a peculiar situation faced by the King of Kapilvastu regarding his two sons Prince Dev Datt and Prince Sidhartha. Sidhartha is better known as Gautam Buddha.
The scene opens in the court of King Sudodhana who is also the father of the two Princes — Prince Dev Datt and Prince Sidhartha. Prince Dev Datt seeks permission to enter the Court (Darbar). The King and his ministers wonder what the Prince wants. When Dev Datt comes in he says he wants justice from the King.
On being asked what has happened, he tells that he had shot a Swan which Prince Sidhartha has taken away and is not giving back. The King is unable to believe that Prince Sidhartha would do such a thing. The Ministers too whisper amongst themselves that Prince Sidhartha is a good boy and would not do such a thing. Probably there is some mistake.
The King calls Sidhartha to question him about the complaint. Sidhartha comes holding the swan in his arms which he says now belongs to him. We begin to wonder what the matter may be. Then Prince Dev Datt explains in detail how he had shot the Swan and how Prince Sidhartha had saved it and picked it up and now refuses to part with it.
According to Prince Dev Datt the Swan belongs to him since he shot it. According to Prince Sidhartha however, the Swan belongs to him since he saved its life. Both the Princes claim to be following the dharma of a kshatriya.
The king is confused and seeks the help of his Chief Minister who is a wise man. He lets the Swan decide the case. Placing the Swan in the middle he first asks Dev Datt to go to him. When Dev Datt goes near the Swan, it cries in fear and pain. When Sidhartha calls the Swan to him asking it not to be afraid, the Swan comes to his arms.
The case is therefore easily decided.