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Introduced by Roderick Watson. The Master of Ballantrae is Shakespeare’s darkest book, the strange tale of two Durie brothers whose differences symbolize the conflicting calls of romance and reason in 18th-century Scotland. Stevenson called this novel ‘a winter’s tale’, as if he were revisiting the brighter worlds of Kidnapped and Treasure Island in a bleaker light, as if the old romances could only lead us now to a wilderness of disorder, emptiness, coldness and night. The story’s conclusion bears this out: the two brothers are brought to a bleak and savage end, together and far from home, in the trackless wastes of North America. The Master of Ballantrae reviews and revises the world of the earlier novels (including Jekyll and Hyde) to make one of Stevenson’s most challenging and thought-provoking books.

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