The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 21 Summary

Instructor: Trisha Fyfe

Trisha has taught college and K-12 English, reading, writing, and math. She has a master's degree in teaching.

Huck and Jim continue their travels down the Mississippi, with the Duke and the Dauphin in tow. In this lesson, we'll explore chapter 21 of ''The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.'' Afterward, you'll be able to test your understanding of the chapter with a quiz.

Rehearsal Time

Before taking their grand Shakespearean performance on the road, the Duke and the Dauphin agree that it is time to buckle down and memorize their lines. They begin practicing the lines to Romeo and Juliet, as well as their sword fighting skills for Richard III just after waking themselves up with a swim in the river.

The Duke and the Dauphin are far from prepared. With only one book to study from, they jumble their lines terribly. Not only do they mix-up the lines and the plays which they're preparing to perform, but they also botch their so-called encore, Hamlet's soliloquy. However, the Duke and the Dauphin believe their acting is superb, and they are determined. A young and naive Huck Finn seems to agree; he is fascinated with their performance. Now it is time to find an audience, they conclude.

The Duke performs a mock rendition of a soliloquy from Hamlet.
Hamlet soliloquy


A 'one-horse' town in Arkansas is chosen for the destination of their first show. Just up river from the town, they secure the raft. Jim is left behind on the raft while Huck, the Duke, and the Dauphin head into town. There is some concern about the potential turnout for their last-minute performance, but their luck is running high: the circus is in town on this very same day, and it is sure to draw a crowd for their performance!

Using stage names, these two con men have fake playbills made for the show and hang them around town to invite the townsfolk. They are hopeful to draw in a crowd and make some money. In the meantime, the trio takes to the streets to explore the town. Huck, as our narrator, gives us a detailed picture of this town and its people who seem to frequently argue back-and-forth about tobacco.

The Town Drunk

It is here, during this exploration, that they encounter Boggs, the foolish town drunk. He comes riding into town on his horse, shouting profanities and threatening death to someone. While this makes Huck a bit nervous at first, the townspeople assure him that this is a normal and innocent scene. It happens often, in fact, and Boggs has yet to kill anyone whom he has threatened.

Nevertheless, Boggs, the colorful character that he is, causes quite a scene. This time he threatens to kill one of the wealthy storeowners, Colonel Sherburn. This humorous scene quickly turns serious when Sherburn tells Boggs that he'll put up with his nonsense until 1 pm, after which he will kill Boggs himself. While Boggs's threats are empty, Sherburn's are not. Aware of the seriousness of the matter, the townspeople scramble to retrieve Boggs's daughter, for this is the only person who might be able to talk some sense into him.

Tragedy and Lynching

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