Huck and Hamlet?


William Shakespeare and the American People

In the nineteenth century American culture, Shakespeare was no secret. Twain uses several scenes from Shakespeare in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to prove this in a humorous way when the characters  the "duke" and the "king" perform Hamlet.

"To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin

 That makes calamity of so long life:..."

In a time when only the educated Americans knew their Shakespeare from books, most of the general public was familiar with it through performances, many times as parodies.These performances were almost always part of a variety show of entertainment in one evening including dancers, singers, minstrels, etc.  Incorporating Shakespeare with Huck Finn is almost expected for the 19th century.


The fact that everyone in those days could recite Shakespeare (or their own version that is), was just as much entertaining to people as the real thing. Especially when the big city folks in Philadelphia saw it performed and the southern states saw some pieces of the real thing with other parodies mixed into it must have made them feel very cultured for that time.

It was interesting as well that the American people not only performed and watched Shakespeare plays being performed, but also they did their own renditions. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, right? In using their own dialects, changing scenes or making parodies of Shaakespeare's works, the American people brought a new perspective about literature and drama to their own homes.

I think it is awesome that they could entertain themselves when there was no technology. These were obviously smart people if they could interpret Shakespeare; I still have a hard time when someone is telling me in English what he is trying to say. It is also no wonder that families like the Ingalles were such a close nit family they were forced to be in a small living area with no TV, Internet, Computer, iPod, iPad, iPhone, Play Station, Xbox 360!!! Wow what would kids these days do?

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This page contains a single entry by ValerieSusa published on October 17, 2010 3:08 PM.

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