Clemens testing our knowledge about Shakespeare?

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                When incorporating Shakespeare into The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Samuel Clemens does so with humor.  In order to understand the humor one must be familiar with Shakespeare and in this instance Hamlet.

To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would fardels bear, til Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane,
But that the fear of something after death Murders the innocent sleep,
Great nature’s second course,
And makes us rather sling arrows of outrageous fortune
Than fly to others that we know not of.
-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

This passage is an attempt to recite Hamlet’s soliloquy from the duke, but it clearly is incorrect.  The humor used in this Shakespeare reference is supposed to tell the reader two important facts.  It tells us that not only was Shakespeare popular then, but also today because the reader is still expected to recognize the humor in the obviously incorrect lines of Hamlet. 

Hamlet's actual soliloquy.

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This page contains a single entry by StefanieWiegand published on October 19, 2010 1:19 PM.

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