(taken from the book synopsis)
William Shakespeare’s The Tempest retold as Hag-Seed.
Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he’s staging a Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, it will heal emotional wounds.
Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And also brewing revenge.
After twelve years, revenge finally arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. Here, Felix and his inmate actors will put on his Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him. It’s magic! But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall?
Margaret Atwood’s novel take on Shakespeare’s play of enchantment, retribution, and second chances leads us on an interactive, illusion-ridden journey filled with new surprises and wonders of its own.
I adore Margaret Atwood. She’s inventive and interesting, and she makes me think deep thoughts while thoroughly enjoying her imaginings.
And I am a Shakespeare buff. His stories are the basis for a lot of the best of English literature. Comedy, tragedy, romance — it doesn’t really matter to me. Their all wonderful.
(If, by chance, you are unsure about the story of The Tempest, Atwood gives readers the rundown of the story as she sees it at the end of the book. Flip ahead with my blessings.)
So when Atwood decided to jump into the Hogarth Shakespeare series, I was excited. And that she decided to re-tell The Tempest . . . It was perfect. A little magic, a little weather, a lot of drama.
I’m not going to plot out The Tempest, but I will say that the island (the setting) is a microcosm for what is happening in the larger kingdom (of the play). And then it gets more and more ‘meta’ as the play continues.
Atwood makes it even more ‘meta,’ playing the play out in Felix (the main character) as well as in the prison where he stages the play. There are so many levels of The Tempest in Hag-Seed. But they work well, adding layers to the play and the story and Felix’s life.
Felix is a wonderful modern-day Prospero, using the theater as his own kind of magic. With the help of his prisoners, he’s able to set up the perfect revenge.
He sets himself up in perfect isolation to prepare his revenge. Sort of his own magical island, with the ghost of his daughter his own little Ariel (although her name was Miranda). And, at the prison, he finds a second Ariel and his own Caliban, and recruits a Miranda for the play.
So, as in the play, Felix creates his own tempest in life, but also creates a more imaginative, revenge driven version of The Tempest in the prison. And the repercussions from his revenge continue on after the play is over.
Throughout it all, Atwood give readers themes to ponder: As Felix teaches the prisoners, so does he give them deeper themes to explore. I felt like I was back in literature class, speaking about wonderful, literary, Shakespeare stuff.
And she got the comedy in there! The prisoners were awesome. Felix bans the use of profanities while they are preparing for the play, making them use Shakespearean profanities instead. The sprinkling of phrases such as whoreson and pox brain and fen head are perfect!
Margaret Atwood did not disappoint. I loved Hag-Seed. Loved, loved, loved.
- Series: Hogarth Shakespeare
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Hogarth; First American Edition edition (October 11, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-13: 978-0804141291