The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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The kind of people Huck and Tom might turn into were they to only act out of self-interest, the duke and king are a couple of con men that Huck and Jim travel with. The two are selfish, greedy, deceptive, and debauched, but sometimes their actions expose and exploit societal hypocrisy in a way that is somewhat attractive and also rather revealing. Though the exploits of the duke and king can be farcical and fun to watch, the two demonstrate an absolute, hideous lack of respect for human life and dignity.

The duke and king Quotes in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn quotes below are all either spoken by The duke and king or refer to The duke and king. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn published in 1994.
Chapter 20 Quotes

“I doan’ mine one er two kings, but dat’s enough. Dis one’s powerful drunk, en de duke ain’ much better.”

Related Characters: Jim (speaker), The duke and king
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

Soon after the duke and king join Huck and Jim on the raft, the two conmen get very drunk. Consequently, Jim says that he hopes no more kings come aboard the raft.

This passage is loaded with funny ironies. Jim worries that he and Huck will encounter more kings on their journey, but of course they haven't encountered any real kings, just a couple of liars. But the novel, committed to the values of democracy, seems to be further suggesting here that, in one sense, all dukes and kings are conmen, people who get special privileges without having earned them. History has seen many real drunken kings – are the conmen on the raft really any lesser in comparison?

Huck and Jim are conspicuously patient with their bad company here, which speaks to their amicability. 

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Chapter 33 Quotes

I was sorry for them poor pitiful rascals, it seems like I couldn’t ever feel any hardness against them any more in the world. It was a dreadful thing to see. Human beings can be awful cruel to one another.

Related Characters: Huckleberry Finn (speaker), The duke and king
Page Number: 174
Explanation and Analysis:

Huck learns that the duke and king are staging their scandalous show near the Phelps' farm, and he at once sets out to warn the con men that their gig is up. He's too late, though. On the way, he sees that a mob has tarred and feathered the duke and king; Huck pities the two immensely.

Tarring and feathering was an especially painful and humiliating punishment, common in the United States as a type of mob vengeance. Offenders were stripped to the waist, covered in scalding tar, and then covered in feathers which stuck to the tar. They were then paraded around to be humiliated, as the duke and king are. Punishments like these are one of the ways a society enforces conformity to its standards, regardless of whether or not those standards are just. As dreadful as the duke and king are, the people who tar and feather them are just as dreadful.

Huck, who knows just how exploitative the duke and king are, is nonetheless so empathetic that he pities them. As he sees it, nobody should be so cruelly abused – for such punishments amount merely to cruelty, not to justice. It is one of Huck's great characteristics to be in such a cruel world, and to know it, and yet retain his sensitivity and gentleness and kind-heartedness.

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The duke and king Character Timeline in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The timeline below shows where the character The duke and king appears in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 19
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...to con people, having once been “so high.” He claims to have been born the Duke of Bridgewater. Huck and Jim pity the man after he begins to cry, and the... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
The duke becomes sour, but the king tells him that he should cheer up. Life on the... (full context)
Chapter 20
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The duke and king ask Huck and Jim if Jim is a runaway slave. Huck says that... (full context)
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The next morning, the duke and king scheme as to how to make some easy money. They decide to put... (full context)
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Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
With Jim still on the raft and the duke at the printing office, Huck and the king go to the meeting in the woods... (full context)
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Meanwhile, the duke is in town at the printing office, selling bills and advertisements in, and subscriptions to,... (full context)
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...as the lookout, Jim asks Huck if he expects them to run into any more kings on their journeys. Huck says he doesn’t, much to Jim’s relief. Jim says that two... (full context)
Chapter 21
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The duke and king continue to practice Shakespeare. After a few days, the group arrives at a... (full context)
Chapter 22
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That night, the duke and king put on their performance of Shakespeare in town, but only twelve people show... (full context)
Chapter 23
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All day the duke and king prepare for their performance of “The Royal Nonesuch,” rigging up a stage with... (full context)
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After that, the duke thanks the audience members and asks them to spread the word about the show. The... (full context)
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The next day, the duke and king play to a full house and scam them in the same way as... (full context)
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Back at the raft, Huck and the duke meet up with Jim and the king, who didn’t even go to town for the... (full context)
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Huck knows that the duke and king are really just con men, but he doesn’t think it would do any... (full context)
Chapter 24
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As the duke and king devise another con, Jim tells the duke that it is uncomfortable to be... (full context)
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The king, dressed in black clothes that make him look “swell and starchy,” rafts to a nearby... (full context)
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On the raft, the boy tells the king that he resembles Mr. Wilks. The king lies and says that he is a reverend,... (full context)
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After dropping the boy off, the king tells Huck to fetch the duke. Huck knows what the king is up to (conning... (full context)
Chapter 25
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The duke and king, pretending to be Harvey and William Wilks, are received by Peter Wilks’s family,... (full context)
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The king addresses the crowd, saying how hard it was to lose Peter and how grateful he... (full context)
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Mary Jane fetches the letter her uncle left behind, and the king reads it and cries. In the letter, Peter Wilks bequeaths to his nieces his house... (full context)
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The duke and king, along with Huck, go to the cellar and find the hidden bag full... (full context)
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Upstairs before the townspeople, the duke and king announce that they are giving what Peter seemingly bequeathed them to his nieces,... (full context)
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A man, Doctor Robinson, laughs in the king’s face after he gives his etymology of “orgies.” The townspeople are shocked, but the undeterred... (full context)
Chapter 26
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The duke and king and Huck are all given rooms in the Wilks home to sleep in.... (full context)
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Freedom Theme Icon
Huck searches the king’s room for the money but doesn’t find it. Just then the duke and king enter... (full context)
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As they leave the room, the duke tells the king that they should hide the money in another place, because otherwise some... (full context)
Chapter 27
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After the king “got off some of his usual rubbage” by giving another speech, the undertaker seals the... (full context)
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In selling the Wilks’s family of slaves, the king separates a mother from her children. The Wilks girls are distraught at this, and, if... (full context)
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Later, the duke and king also question Huck about whether he’s been in their room. Huck lies and... (full context)
Chapter 28
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Huck comes upon Mary Jane, who is packing for her trip to England. She is also crying because, in selling the Wilks’s slaves,... (full context)
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Huck reveals that the duke and king are not Mary Jane’s uncles but rather a couple of frauds. Mary Jane... (full context)
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...away, because he is afraid that she will express in her face knowledge of the duke and king’s fraud, which will in turn allow the two to escape. Mary Jane is... (full context)
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...of his story, he at last tricks the two into not mentioning anything to the duke and king that might alert them to Mary Jane’s knowledge of their fraudulence. (full context)
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Later that day, the duke and king hold an auction to sell off the Wilks estate. As the auction draws... (full context)
Chapter 29
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...the arrival of the two men who claim to be Harvey and William Wilks, the duke and king persist in their fraudulence. After the king cracks a joke at the real... (full context)
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At the tavern, Doctor Robinson asks the king to produce the bag of gold so that it can be kept safely till the... (full context)
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Levi Bell begins to speak with the king, and eventually tricks him, the duke, and the other old man claiming to be Harvey... (full context)
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The real Harvey Wilks asks the king to reveal what is tattooed onto Peter Wilks’s chest. Whitening, the king at last says... (full context)
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...Suddenly, though, Huck hears a familiar sound, the humming of a skiff. It is the duke and king. Huck sinks to the floor of the raft and almost cries that the... (full context)
Chapter 30
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After the duke and king board the raft, the king shakes Huck by the collar and asks if... (full context)
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The king cusses the town and everybody in it, but the duke turns on him again and... (full context)
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
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...is the very reference to the bag of gold that triggers an argument between the duke and king over how the money got into Peter’s coffin in the first place, each... (full context)
Chapter 31
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Huck, Jim, and the con men drift downriver for four days, at which point the duke and king feel safe enough to resume their scams in nearby villages, but they don’t... (full context)
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The king goes up to a village to see if the people there have caught wind of... (full context)
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...been captured and taken to Silas Phelps’ farm. Huck also learns that it was the king who turned Jim in for forty dollars, using a handbill earlier printed by the duke. (full context)
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As Huck makes his way to save Jim, he runs into the duke. Over the course of their conversation, the duke tells Huck that the king did indeed... (full context)
Chapter 33
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...and another man, the show is scandalous. Huck, realizing that the show must be the duke and king’s, sneaks out of the house at night with Tom to warn the con... (full context)
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...Tom walk back to the farm, Huck feels humble and somehow to blame for the duke and king’s fate, even though he knows he didn’t do anything. Huck supposes that, when... (full context)