When Huck encounters the Grangerford family, the family shows many allusions to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The dispute between the Shepherdsons and Grangerfords is a humorous allusion. The family feud very much resembles the dispute between the Montagues and the Capulets. Similar to the two families in the book Romeo and Juliet, Shepherdson and Grangerford families have forgotten what they are fighting over. “…but they don’t know now what the row was about in the first place” (Twain 309). This quote strengthens the point of not knowing the reason behind the fighting of the families. The feud has been running for so long, that generations have grown up with the idea that the opposing family is very much an enemy. There has not been to assume a leadership position and try to resolve this dispute peacefully.
Another allusion to Romeo and Juliet is when Sophia Grangerford runs off with Harney Sheperdson. This resembles the taboo of Romeo and Juliet, the offspring of the two disputing families who fall in love and defy the rules made by their own families. “Well, den Miss Sophia’s run off! ‘deed she has. She run off in de night some time-nobody don’t know jis’ when; run off to get married to dat young Harney Shepherdson…” (317) These two characters have to meet secretly because their love is forbidden, just as in Romeo and Juliet. The love between them could possibly bring together the two families but because of the strict parents, they are to afraid to share their love for each other with anyone else. The children are not doing this to be rebellious. Many children who grow up in such strict household would go and marry someone out of spite for the parents’ rules. These two characters in both book are truly in love with each other.
The death of two of the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons is a sad allusion to the deaths of many Capulets and Montagues in the play Romeo and Juliet. The Grangerford and Shepherdson families are hurting each other to win a feud with no ending. “Well, then, what did you want to kill him for?” “Why, nothing-only its on account of the feud” (308). The deaths are also sad because there is no reason behind them. The Shepherdson and Grangerford children have not done anything to each other. The children go out and kill each other because that was what they were told to do as they were growing up. Many have died and it makes both families lives difficult. Nobody can leave their house without a weapon. Together they go to church and both fathers and many sons sit with riffles between their legs to protect themselves. This resembles the difficulty of life between the Capulet and Montague “gangs”. They could not leave a home unprotected for fear that if they did they would be killed for just a mere walk around town.