Mark twain’s Fictional Characterization of Shakespeare

Proceedings of The 3rd International Conference on Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts

Year: 2022



Mark twain’s Fictional Characterization of Shakespeare

Hsin-yun Ou



Mark Twain held Shakespeare in high regard and constantly employed Shakespearean allusions in his works, but he refused to manipulate Shakespeare’s original text. Twain’s portrayal of the Duke and the King in Huckleberry Finn satirizes the hypocritical exploitations of Shakespeare’s authority to procure legitimation of high culture by those who slaughtered Shakespeare’s texts. This article explores Mark Twain’s fictional representations of Shakespeare in 1601, Conversation. As it was by the Social Fireside in the Time of the Tudors (1876). Twain’s short risqué squib relates a fictional record of Queen Elizabeth I and her guests, including Shakespeare, recounting vulgar tales. Twain represents Shakespeare as a fictional character through this double-edged ribaldry that demonstrates the humorist’s interests in Rabelaisian and historical writings. The tale exhibits Twain’s knowledge of the archaic English language, literature, London theatre history, the technique of Shakespeare’s sexual irony, and Montaigne’s and Lyly’s influences on Shakespeare. Drawing upon “double-coded” theories of parody, this article argues that in 1601 Twain blends admiration with a sarcastic attitude toward Shakespeare. Most significantly, the humorist satirizes contemporary American hypocritical practices and censorship by utilizing lighthearted mockery of Elizabethan parlance and customs. Twain integrates his American identity with cultural heritage from Europe by paying tribute to the freedom and ingenuity of Renaissance culture.

keywords: Shakespeare, Mark Twain, parody, American identity, European heritage, double-coded .