The reach of grace

The power of old stories
Students of Shakespeare know that the bard didn’t create his material solely out of his own imagination, but instead masterfully recrafted stories that were centuries old. And Shakespeare’s own dramas have been repeatedly reimagined in contemporary settings. Two novels receiving critical attention these days are both based on Hamlet: Lin Enger’s Undiscovered Country is set in small-town Minnesota, and David Wroblewski’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle takes place on a Wisconsin farm. When an NPR book reviewer asked the two authors why novelists keep returning to these old stories, the two agreed that it’s because the stories are so good. Enger added, “Shakespeare is particularly adaptable because the conflicts he chronicles—between vengeance and justice, and vengeance and forgiveness—are . . . the oldest moral dilemmas that human beings face.”


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