Bestselling and multiple award-winning author Margaret Atwood retells The Tempest, one of Shakespeare's most stirring and unforgettable plays.
About the Author
Date of Birth:November 18, 1939
Place of Birth:Ottawa, Ontario
Education:B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967
Read an Excerpt
Wednesday, March 13, 2013.
The house lights dim. The audience quiets.
ON THE BIG FLATSCREEN: Jagged yellow lettering on black:
By William Shakespeare with
The Fletcher Correctional Players
Onscreen: A hand-printed sign, held up to the camera byAnnouncer,wearing a short purple velvet cloak. In his otherhand, a quill.
Sign: A SUDDEN TEMPEST
Announcer: What you’re gonna see, is a storm at sea:Winds are howlin’, sailors yowlin’,Passengers cursin’ ’em, ’cause it gettin’ worse:Gonna hear screams, just like a ba-a-d dream,But not all here is what it seem,Just sayin’.
Now we gonna start the playin’.
He gestures with the quill. Cut to: Thunder and lightning, in funnel cloud, screengrab from the Tornado Channel. Stock shot of ocean waves. Stock shot of rain. Sound of howling wind.Camera zooms in on a bathtub-toy sailboat tossing up and down on a blue plastic shower curtain with fish on it, the waves made by hands underneath.Closeup of Boatswain in a black knitted tuque. Water is thrown on him from offscreen. He is drenched.
BOATSWAIN: Fall to’t yarely, or we run ourselves aground!
Yare! Yare! Beware! Beware!
Let’s just do it,
Better get to it,
Trim the sails,
Fight the gales,
Unless you wantin’ to swim with the whales!
VOICES OFF: We’re all gonna drown!
BOATSWAIN: Get outta tha’ way! No time for play!
A bucketful of water hits him in the face.
VOICES OFF: Listen to me! Listen to me!
Don’t you know we’re royalty?
BOATSWAIN: Yare! Yare! The waves don’t care!
The wind is roarin’, the rain is pourin’,
All you do is stand and stare!
VOICES OFF: You’re drunk!
BOATSWAIN: You’re a idiot!
VOICES OFF: We’re doomed!
VOICES OFF: We’re sunk!
Closeup of Ariel in a blue bathing cap and iridescent ski goggles, blue makeup on the lower half of his face. He’s wearing a translucent plastic raincoat with ladybugs, bees, and butterflies on it. Behind his left shoulder there’s an odd shadow. He laughs soundlessly, points upward with his right hand, which is encased in a blue rubber glove. Lightning flash, thunderclap.
VOICES OFF: Let’s pray!
BOATSWAIN: What’s that you say?
VOICES OFF: We’re goin’ down! We’re gonna drown!
Ain’t gonna see the King no more!
Jump offa the ship, swim for the shore!
Ariel throws his head back and laughs with delight. In each of his blue rubber hands he’s holding a high-powered flashlight, in flicker mode.
The screen goes black.
A VOICE FROM THE AUDIENCE: What?
ANOTHER VOICE: Power’s off.
ANOTHER VOICE: Must be the blizzard. A line down somewhere.
Total darkness. Confused noise from outside the room. Yelling.
Shots are fired.
A VOICE FROM THE AUDIENCE: What’s going on?
VOICES, FROM OUTSIDE THE ROOM: Lockdown! Lockdown!
A VOICE FROM THE AUDIENCE: Who’s in charge here?
Three more shots.
A VOICE, FROM INSIDE THE ROOM: Don’t move! Quiet!
Keep your heads down! Stay right where you are.
Reading Group Guide
In order to provide reading groups with the most informed and thought-provoking questions possible, it is necessary to reveal certain aspects of the story in this novel. If you have not finished reading Hag-Seed, we respectfully suggest that you do so before reviewing this guide.
1. What are your thoughts about how Atwood reimagined The Tempest? Did her approach surprise you?
2. Compare and contrast Atwood’s Felix with Shakespeare’s Prospero.
3. Do you think there is a similarity between sorcerers/magic and theater? If you were to reimagine The Tempest in modern times, what profession would you give Prospero?
4. How do you think the notion of vengeance morphs and evolves throughout the book?
5. What do you think of Felix’s relationship with the Fletcher Correctional Players? Are they simply a means to an end? Or do you think he feels attachment to them?
6. Discuss the setting of the prison and the symbolic meaning it serves in connection to The Tempest. Do you think the correctional players relate to the play because it is about prisons?
7. Felix spends time teaching the inmates about Shakespeare, do you think he is a good teacher? Do you think we will always be teaching and performing Shakespeare?
8. Discuss the role that grief plays in the novel. How has the loss of his daughter, Miranda, haunted and impacted Felix throughout the novel?
9. What do you think of Atwood’s decision to stage a play within a novel that is based on that same play? (Felix stages The Tempest in Hag-Seed, a re-imagining of The Tempest.)
10. Discuss the ending, were you satisfied with the conclusion of Hag-Seed?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I’ve read and enjoyed several of the Hogarth Shakespeare books but this one is now my favorite. For those unfamiliar with The Tempest, the story is nicely retold at the back of the book. For those vaguely familiar, re-discovering themes and characters through an aging director’s very strange cast and stage is an absolute delight. And for those who know the Tempest backward forward and sideways, you can be sure you’ve never seen it presented quite like this. Part literary storytelling—how will a director cope when he loses his prestigious position?—part haunting mystery—and is the new home haunted?—part fascinating, thoroughly absorbing tale of growing threat and revenge, and part character study filled with at least as many present-world characters as those in Shakespeare’s play—Hagseed works, and works superbly, on every possible level, and keeps its readers glued to the page from start to finish. In case you can’t tell, I really loved this book! Disclosure: Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.
When I first heard that Hogarth Press was doing a special Shakespeare series, I was excited. Weren’t you? We’re all great lovers of the man. Or at least we pretend to be. But I am not pretending. In college one summer I put a goal upon myself to read every Shakespeare play. I failed but I tried. In college, I studied “Hamlet” in THREE different classes. I was getting bored with it by the third class. As a teacher, I got to teach “Romeo & Juliet”, “Juliet Caesar”, “MacBeth” and again “Hamlet”. After my teaching career ended, I worked at the “Shakespeare Festival of New Jersey“. So you can say I have Shakespeare in my blood. The first book of the Hogarth Shakespeare series is “Hag Seed“, Margaret Atwood’s spin on a modern retelling of “The Tempest”. I found it so very good that it was difficult to put down. But then Margaret Atwood has never disappointed me and I’ve read many of her works. I cannot wait to read more of this series. What an exciting way to reintroduce Shakespeare to the world! I give this book 5 of 5 Stars. DISCLAIMER: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
I want to start this review by saying that I love Margaret Atwood's work. Although usually subversive and political in nature, her novels are always beautifully written with strong characters and interesting worlds. I haven't read all of her novels yet, a lofty goal of mine, but I am incredibly impressed by the versatility of Atwood's writing. Unfortunately, Hag Seed, although beautiful and well written, was a flop for me. The story felt forced and the tale took awhile to come to a close - which could entirely be because it is based on Shakespeare's The Tempest and did not allow for a whole lot of wiggle room for Atwood to work. I don't think this was one of Atwood's best work and will most definitely not top my list of favourite novels of all time, but it was a lovely re-telling of a well studied work. In true Atwood style we see political opinion in this novel (prisons and rehabilitation being one of the minor themes), but the majority of the novel follows our thwarted and revenge thirsty Felix. Hag Seed: A tale of deceit, revenge, salvation and loss. A wonderfully executed rendition of Shakespeare's The Tempest that perhaps took a little too long to reach it's crescendo, but nevertheless an interesting read. Felix, having lost his daughter and his beloved job as artistic theatre director of Makeshiweg Theatre Festival, finds himself teaching Literacy Through Theatre to the prisoners at the nearby Burgess Correctional Institution by using "modernized" Shakespeare reenactments to help rehabilitate prisoners. Eventually, Felix's old nemesis visits the theatre and chaos reigns in Felix's attempt to seek revenge. I often felt incredibly sorry for Felix because life really can be that cruel - and even understood his desire for revenge - but I did not condone his methods. Regardless, the tale of the Tempest was amusing, uplifting and creatively re-invented to make a story that, although not Atwood's best, is still wholesomely Atwood. All-in-all, Hag Seed was worth a read if only to allow me to have interesting conversations with my otherwise literary involved friends. I am not certain I took anything deeply thought provoking from this novel, but it is definitely worth the read for those whole are interested in the more serious literary genre with a splash of humour. The various verses the inmates create to re-work Shakespeare into a more modern language were rather amusing, but could also upset some of the more die hard Shakespeare lovers. Hag Seed was OK, and that's also okay because at least I have a great book to discuss with my friends who read serious literature because Hag Seed is cognitively accessible to all. This novel will appeal to readers who enjoy Shakespeare re-tellings and novels about revenge. I would definitely recommend this to those who enjoy serious literary treasures with undercurrents of the political. I also suggest this to those who enjoy Atwood's previous work since there are still elements of "Atwoodization" throughout this modern re-telling - the only downside is it appears the author struggled a bit to fit her personality into such a small, previously structured novel.
This being my first modern day retelling of a Shakespearean play I was unsure at first if it would do the original play justice. Well, smack me silly, I was proven wrong by the wonderful job Margaret Atwood did in writing such an intriguing take of the Tempest with the twist of the modern day. The protagonist Felix gives the reader an ample amount to speculate upon regarding his character. Whereas, I observed how Felix’s own life intertwined with the Tempest, for example, Prospero also had a daughter named Miranda who died additionally, things are not always what they insinuate with Felix. I don’t want to expose information too important nonetheless, an aspect of the plot I found intriguing was it is up to each individual reader to determine the mental state of Felix. What is mine, you ask? Well, I don’t think he is mad as Shakespeare would say. The plot has been pleasingly written containing alluring elements, in addition to engaging readers with ample emotions such as sadness, anger, confusion, including hysterical laughter. Atwood provided the reader a version of the Tempest that is magical, authentic, with delightfully superb actors who reside within Fletcher prison. Therefore, do not fret if you have not read the original play it is explained marvelously also conveniently at the back of the book is a summary of the Tempest. Whereas, this is a minute glance on my viewpoint of HAG-SEED you can anticipate scads of delight if you read the book. There is a lot more information on my blog Readaholic Zone.
I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Margaret Atwood, and Crown Publishing Hogarth in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all, for sharing your hard work with me. I had a difficult time getting into this novel. About 20% in I re-read The Tempest by William Shakespeare - it has been a LONG time since I first read it - and that helped, but at 48% in there is a chart of the actors portraying the characters, and that made it all come together. The second half of the book flowed to a satisfactory ending. It is not my favorite Margaret Atwood but is an interesting slant on revenge and forgiveness.
You don't have to know Shakespeare to appreciate Hag-seed. The author offers a synopsis of the play at the end of the book. This was enlightening as it allowed me to better see the parallels between the two versions of the story: book and play. At first I was having trouble getting into the story. It wasn't really "grabbing" me. But something kept me going, and I am glad. There is a play within a play within a play here, and once it really gets going it is quite fascinating. Some amazing characters, real and...not? Well worth reading.
As part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, William Shakespeare's The Tempest is retold in Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood. It is very highly recommended. Felix Phillips was the acclaimed and creative Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival until he was forced out of his position by his scheming and conniving second-in-command, Tony Price. After his ignoble exit, he goes into a self-imposed exile, living in a remote shack. After twelve years pass, Felix applies under the name of Mr. Duke for the position of a teacher in the Literacy Through Literature program at the Fletcher County Correctional Institute. His one requirement is that he be allowed to use Shakespeare's plays to teach and that he be allowed to have his students/inmates put on the play. His class becomes wildly popular and highly successful in increasing literacy among the participants. When he learns that his nemesis Tony and the other bigwigs that ousted him from the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival will be visiting the Fletcher County Correctional Institute with the intent of ending the Literacy Through Literature program, Felix has another end game in mind. They don't know he is the one teaching the program as they only know him as Mr. Duke. This is Felix's chance to put on a performance of The Tempest, the play he was planning to direct before Tony had him removed from his position. The narrative is a parallel to the play as Atwood uses her characters to retell The Tempest while also having the inmates perform their version of the play. The results are simply amazing. The vengeance, magic, spirits, etc. are all there, but the prisoners are allowed to rewrite sections to make their performance based on a more contemporary version. This Tempest has the re-writing of the play featuring rapping - and Ariel is no ethereal fairy. The inmates are also only allowed to swear using Shakespearean swear words found in the original. I am delighted with this fourth addition to the Hogarth series. Atwood's narrative is wonderfully inventive and compelling. Don't expect boring or tell yourself that you aren't interested in a re-imagining of Shakespeare. This is a thoroughly modern take on the plot and a man seeking revenge. A synopsis of Shakespeare's original plot in The Tempest is found at the conclusion of Hag-Seed for those who are interested or need some refreshing of their memory. Atwood is, as always, brilliant. I am a dedicated fan of her writing anyway, but Hag-Seed is clever, humorous, and a marvelously complete, original retelling of the play. The Hogarth series has featured Jeanette Winterson's The Gap of Time (The Winter's Tale), Howard Jacobson's Shylock is My Name (The Merchant of Venice), Anne Tyler's Vinegar Girl (The Taming of the Shrew), and Margaret Atwood's Hag-Seed (The Tempest). I highly recommended Anne Tyler's Vinegar Girl, but for me, Atwood's Hag-Seed was a more successful adaptation. I am anxious to read the first two books in the Hogarth series and I'm planning to read each new adaptation as soon as possible. Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.