Summary and book reviews of Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed

Hogarth Shakespeare series

by Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2016, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2017, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
James Broderick

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

PROLOGUE:
Screening

Wednesday, March 13, 2013.

The house lights dim. The audience quiets.

ON THE BIG FLATSCREEN: Jagged yellow lettering on black:

THE TEMPEST
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'.

Grins.

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....

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

There are many, many moments in Hag-Seed when the reader–who will get more out of the novel if she has seen or read the original play though it's not necessary to enjoy the book–will no doubt smile in wry recognition as Atwood appropriates Shakespeare's plot twists and characters for her contemporary story. That's one of the delights of Hag-Seed, the surreptitious recasting of a timeless work in our own time. But it's also one of the limitations. Hag-Seed is so dependent on The Tempest that it succeeds more often as echo than as a free-standing work of art. This is not necessarily the fate that all attempts at updating and modernizing Shakespeare's stories must accept.   (Reviewed by James Broderick).

Full Review Members Only (786 words).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Deliberate and carefully built, this novel rarely pulls off true theaters magic of transforming glitter confetti into fairy dust.

Booklist

Supremely sagacious, funny, compassionate, and caustic, Atwood presents a reverberating play-within-a-play within a novel.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. If, at the end, things tie up a little too neatly, the same might be said of the original, and Atwood's canny remix offers multiple pleasures: seeing the inmates' takes on their characters, watching Felix make use of the limited resources the prison affords (legal and less so), and marveling at the ways she changes, updates, and parallels the play's magic, grief, vengeance, and showmanship.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Inventive, heartfelt, and swiftly rendered.

Bookseller (Australia)

A delight... not only an unputdownable tale of revenge, it is also a masterclass in how to teach Shakespeare to those who think they won't like it.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Shakespearean Insults

"You taught me language. And my profit on't is, I know how to curse." That's the lament of Caliban, the resident savage of Shakespeare's The Tempest, but it's also the the savvy modern reader's takeaway of Shakespeare's plays. Among the linguistic legacies of Shakespeare, eloquent and eclectic cursing and insults must certainly be included.

The man knew how to cut someone down to size ("Away, you three inch fool!") with a dazzling array of metaphorical maliciousness ("You are now sailed into the north of my ladies opinion, where you will hang like an icicle on a Dutchman's beard.") and poeticized putdowns ("Thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch!")

As Eric Partridge noted in his ...

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