The king and the duke's presentation of scenes from Shakespeare was not well received. Crowds of people had first attended the circus and were amazed by the beauty of the performers and the agility of the tricks and the comedy of the clowns. Huck joined in with everyone in attendance at feeling awestruck at the skill displayed and the grace of the acts.
In contrast, the Shakespeare presentation attracted a very small, very unappreciative crowd which laughed at acts that were being presented as serious interpretations of dramatic scenes. The performance only attracts enough paying audience to cover expenses, which was not the goal the king and duke had in mind.
The duke develops the plan that will redeem their time in the town.
These Arkansaw lunkheads couldn't come up to Shakespeare; what they wanted was low comedy-and may be something ruther worse than low comedy, he reckoned.
The duke draws up posters advertising a very different type of presentation, emphasizing the tragedy to be presented and informing all that "Ladies and children not admitted." The lure of that last line, he is certain, will draw standing room only crowds and the fifty cents admission price each will pay. "There," says he, "if that line don't fetch them, I don't know Arkansaw!"