Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood Review

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Publication: October 6th 2016
Publisher:  Hogarth
Pages:  293 pages
Source: Christmas Present (Thanks Dad! :D)
Genre: Fiction, Adult, Retelling, Fantasy, Canadian Literature
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤

The Tempest is on the list of my favourite Shakespearean plays (Hamlet will always be first, no changing that no matter how much magic you try to use to against me Prospero). It’s strange play, not a tragedy but it is tragic, not a comedy but it is funny. The proper genre for this play is a Romance, and most of Shakespeare’s Romances are odd plays that no one seems to remember exist.

I first read The Tempest in my third year of university for a Shakespeare class, it was the last play we read, and no one in the class could figure out if they liked the play or hated it, myself included. After listening to my professors lectures though, I grew to appreciate The Tempest and to think about it and it’s characters more. I loved the magic, the theatricality, the darkness, how meta it was (especially for it’s time).

As one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, I was surprised to see a modern adaption by no one other that Margaret Atwood. In a world of Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth adaptions, I never thought I’d see a modern adaption of The Tempest. Atwood’s retelling follows Felix Phillips, an Artistic Director at the Makeshiweg Festival is usurped of his position by his assistant Tony, pulling the plug on his theatrical career and his magnum opus, a production of The Tempest which he wants to produce to bring back the memory of his daughter who died as an infant.

Angry at the dramatic and unfair dealings in his life, Felix plans revenge for Tony and all the other people at the Makeshiweg Festival who let him be deposed of. Eventually, Felix finds himself teaching Shakespeare at a prison, and it is their he realizes he has found the perfect setting to put on his Tempest and carry out his revenge.

Atwood’s retelling is a creative and appropriate way to tell a story that is all about stories and performance. Their were many ways I thought the story would go, but with every chapter Atwood surprised me and by the ending of the novel I was in a place where I realized I had completely misunderstood the theme that I thought was integral to the plot, but so happy with what Atwood gave instead. Felix was such an interesting character to read, and I loved seeing his obsession, his madness, and seeing how he viewed himself at the end of the novel.

This retelling gave me such an appreciation for The Tempest, that I want to re-read it soon, watch all of the movie versions (and the play if someone actually puts it on for once), and read the articles and books Atwood mentioned in her Author’s Note.

Hag-Seed is the perfect novel for anyone who loves Shakespeare, magic, revenge, and surprise. If you ever happen to be stuck on a magical island because of some obscure tempest, make sure to have this book on you.

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2 thoughts on “Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood Review

  1. Since I read “The Tempest” in my third year of university too, I’ve had mixed feelings about it. But you’ve made me curious about Felix (and his Prospero-like attitude) and how Atwood interprets the Shakespeare play. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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