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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
CHAPTER 21: An Arkansas Difficulty
The next morning, the Duke and Dauphin start learning the lines of “Romeo and Juliet,” so they can present it on shore. They bring out a couple of swords made of oak and practice the sword fight scene from “Richard III.” They also practice a made-up version of Hamlet’s Soliloquy. A few days later, the raft comes to a small town in Arkansas, and the Duke and Dauphin go ashore to see if they have any chance of staging their Shakespearean drama there. Luck favors them when they see that the circus is having its last show that evening. The Duke rents the courthouse and starts distributing handbills proclaiming the staging of a show by the “Royal Nonesuch.”
Towards evening, all the families in town are gathered. Huck overhears someone call out that Boggs, the jovial town drunk, is coming.. He approaches the biggest store in town and calls out to Sherburn, who has swindled him. People follow Boggs down the street to watch what happens next. Colonel Sherburn comes out with his pistol, aims at Boggs, and shoots him in full view of his daughter and other villagers. Someone in the crowd says that Sherburn deserves to be lynched for his action, and the crowd agrees. They go yelling and screaming towards Sherburn’s house.
The Duke and the Dauphin decide to stage Shakespearean drama by combining scenes from Romeo and Juliet, Richard III, and Hamlet. They practice their scenes on the raft and look for a place to cheat the townspeople out of their money. They see the perfect opportunity in a small Arkansas town.
While waiting for the performance to begin, Boggs, the town drunk, is shot in broad daylight in the presence of a crowd. Huck witnesses the whole scene as an innocent observer. He shows his revulsion when he describes the morbid curiosity of the crowd in recounting the murder and crowding around the body to get a better glimpse. Huck is the only one who notices that a heavy Bible is placed on the dead man’s chest. This is one of the many incidents which convince Huck that life on the raft is more peaceful and happy than living in town.