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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

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What does Twain satirize in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn's presentation of Romeo and Juliet?

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In his monumental American novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain employs the motif of Romeo and Juliet twice. In one instance, in Chapters XVIII he satirizes the foolishness of apparently educated people in the episode of the feud of the "aristocratic" Shepherdsons and the Grangerfords' modern "Romeo and Juliet" family feud. In a biting ironic twist on this classic feud, Twain has the lovers be the only ones to survive while the families have annihilated themselves because of their foolish pride and behavior with not one of the Shepherdsons able to "recall why the family is at war."

Another episode is the one which follows this tale of the feud,illustrating the literal stage for romantic ideals taken to absurdity. After having duped people with romanticized ideas of life out of money at a religious revival, and having tricked people into buying advertisements, offering false rewards for the capture of the runaway slave Jim, the duke and king decide to perform the balcony scene of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet along with other famous scenes in a "Shakespearean Revival." This farcical presentation exploits people's inability to distinguish between reality and fakery to ridiculous limits. However, only a dozen people attend and laugh at the performance. Angered by this display, the duke decides that the

...these Arkansaw lunkheads couldn't come up to Shakespeare; what they wanted was low comedy....He said he could size their style.

So, after having printed handbills advertising the "world-renowned tragedians" and prohibiting women and children from attending, the duke and king fill the house. But, this audience recognizes the duke and the king for the "rapscallions" that they are and makes plans to praise the show so that others will attend. On the third night the house is "crammed," but the pays a man to tend the door for him and swiftly exits through the stage door, and, shortly, the king appears outside, too. And, in spite of their plan to throw garbage upon the duke and king, the tricksters get away and have taken hundreds of dollars from them. Thus, Twain again satirizes the gullibility and foolishness of human nature.

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What does Twain satirize in the plan to present Romeo and Juliet? Discuss Romeo and Juliet as a motif in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Twain’s use of satire is a dig at a lot of social topics of the era: slavery, religion, academia, etc.

I don’t know that I would categorize Romeo and Juliet as a motif per se. Yes, it is very apparent in the Grangerford and Shepherdsons section and is addressed by name in this section, but the use of the Shakespearean play is used to draw attention to other issues plaguing society.

A motif is generally pretty significant and develops a theme, but is categorized as being pretty recurrent where Romeo and Juliet is not.

Twain uses Romeo and Juliet to show that the highbrow Shakespeare plays all run together and the townspeople wont know the difference, yet they will feel as if they are educated watching it. It is borrowed academia if you will. There was a connotation (and still is today) that works of Shakespeare equal a degree of civility and education. Not only do the King and Duke make a bastardization of it, the townspeople past and present don’t know any better.

Twain is commenting that people want so badly to be perceived as high class that they will fake it in hopes they can pass for intelligent. Twain has already established that those with good “book learnin” aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed *cough TOM cough* and that REAL intelligence lies in the street smarts of those who can cognitively process on a higher level even though they are not considered smart i.e. Jim and Huck.

The use of Shakespeare furthers Twain's commentary on what the public perceived as intelligence and calls everyone out for faked smarts.

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What does Twain satirize in the plan to present Romeo and Juliet? Discuss Romeo and Juliet as a motif in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

I think there are probably a couple of things going on here (in Chapter 20).

First, I think that this plan satirizes the feud that was going on between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons a couple chapters before this one.  The two families had their very own Romeo and Juliet story going and I think this refers back to that.

Second, I think that it is meant to show how stupid the Duke and King think country people are.  They think the audiences will buy the idea of the "king" being Juliet.

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