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Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood


by Margaret Atwood

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Hogarth Shakespeare (4)

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Showing 1-5 of 142 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Some of the most well-known authors of our generation have joined together to create the Hogarth Shakespeare series. Each author is retelling one of Shakespeare's most well-known plays. It's a brilliant idea and one that I'm loving so far. Tracy Chevalier wrote New Boy, the story of Othello set in a Washington D.C. grade school in the 1970s. Anne Tyler tackled The Taming of the Shrew in Vinegar Girl, turning the soured Kate into the daughter of a scientist looking for a green card marriage for his lab assistant. In Margaret Atwoods' Hag-Seed we meet Felix, a modern-day Prospero. He's the eccentric director of a theatre festival, but after being betrayed, he exiles himself as he plots his revenge.

With the other two books I've read in the series I couldn't help but compare them to the original the entire time I was reading them. With Hag-Seed I kept forgetting that it is a remake of The Tempest, even though they are talking about the original play through the novel. The plot and the characters are strong enough that they stand on their own. I kept getting sucked into the story, which is exactly what you want.

I love that every aspect of the retelling is not literal. Miranda is his daughter, but she passed away when she was little. He is not stranded on an island, but instead he's trapped in an isolation of his own making. He takes a job teaching Shakespeare to inmates at a local prison. I love how he has to introduce Shakespeare to them and in doing so, we as the readers are able to appreciate some of the primal aspects of the Bard's work. We often treat Shakespeare as high-browed and far above lay people. In reality he was often crass and played to the commonest level of humor. I love that Atwood manages to embrace that while still highlighting his deeper message.

BOTTOM LINE: Loved the book and the whole premise of the series. It's such a treat to see Shakespeare's work through a new lens. Just as every director of a film or play brings their interpretation to each piece, so do these authors. I can't wait to read the rest of them! ( )
  bookworm12 | Jul 25, 2017 |
This is a modern retelling of Shakepeare’s The Tempest. In this version, the Prospero insert, Felix, is usurped in his position as creative head of the Makeshewig Festival (which bears more than a passing resemblance to the Stratford Festival). His Miranda died young due to illness, and after losing his job at Makeshewig, he settles into life in a glorified shack and plans his revenge against Tony and others. He starts teaching theatre at a nearby prison, and when he learns his enemies will be attending a performance, he throws his elaborate scheme into action.

I hadn’t read The Tempest, but I wanted to familiarize myself with the story before I started Hag-Seed, so I rented a version on DVD that starred Christopher Plummer as Prospero, and was recorded at Stratford Festival. (I chose this version because Plummer is always amazing, but Atwood mentioned in her acknowledgements a version with Helen Mirren as Prospera, so now I have to find that one too.) Anyway, Hag-Seed follows the story from Shakespeare’s play very well. I was dead curious to see how the revenge would play out and if it would cause any peripheral damage. Felix is a hard character to like, though I’m not sure we’re meant to like him. His need for revenge is so overwhelming that he seems to devolve into madness. Jury’s still out on whether or not he’s truly mad, to be honest. The other characters, Anne-Marie especially are great. I liked many of the inmates, though they often seemed to be stereotypes rather than fully-fledged characters in their own right. I would recommend Hag-Seed to Shakespeare nerds, of course, but also to those interested in theatre in prisons or theatre in general. ( )
  Jessiqa | Jul 20, 2017 |
meh. unfortunately. i thought the concept for this retelling very cool, but i found atwood's style/telling very repetitive. the same idea was hammered over and over again, to the point of distraction. there was no subtlety here at all. ( )
  Booktrovert | Jul 16, 2017 |
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. ( )
  SheilaDeeth | Jul 12, 2017 |
I have never read The Tempest and, although I saw a filmed production of it a while ago, I am not that familiar with that play. However, that did not impair my enjoyment of this book. In any event there is a synopsis of the play at the end of the book in case you want to be able to compare the book to the play as you read.

Felix has been betrayed by 2 of his colleagues and deposed from his jobs as artistic director/director/actor of a small theater company while he is preparing for an unconventional production of The Tempest. He is also still grieving from the deaths of his wife and his 3 year old daughter Miranda. Felix withdraws with the imaginary Miranda to a rundown shack in the country to lick his wounds and imagine getting revenge on his betrayers. Several years later he gets a chance for this revenge when the betrayers are invited to see a production of The Tempest that Felix is producing for a literacy class that he teaches part-time at a correctional facility.

By taking part in multimedia productions of Shakespeare's plays, the prisoners gain a lot more than just improving their reading skills. I liked the way they analyzed the characters and reimagined their stories. I also thought that it was a great idea to inspire their careful reading of the text by demanding that they restrict their curses to terms used in the play. If nothing else, it expanded their vocabularies. The prisoners were permitted to add some of their own touches to the play. I listened to the audiobook and I thought that the narrator, R. H. Thomson, did an excellent job with the rapping Caliban and did quite a good job overall. If I see this play again I'll have a whole different view of it.

I received a free copy of the ebook from the publisher however I wound up listening to the audiobook version borrowed from the library. ( )
  fhudnell | Jul 2, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Atwood, MargaretAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Biekmann, LidwienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
So viel ist gewiss, dass jemand, der Rache brütet,
seine eigenen Wunden frisch erhält, die sonst heilen und verharschen würden.

Sir Francis Bacon, "Über die Rache"
Obwohl es auf der Bühne nette Menschen gibt, sind etliche darunter, die einem die Haare zu Berge stehen lassen würden.

Charles Dickens
Other flowering isles must be
In the sea of Life and Agony :
Other spirits float and flee
Over the gulf ...

Percy Bysse Shelly, "Lines Written Among the Eugenean Hills"
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Richard Bradshaw,

1944 - 2007

Gwendolyn MacEwen,

1941 - 1987

First words
The house lights dim. The audience quiets.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Haiku summary
Felix seeks revenge. 
Has jailbirds stage The Tempest.
Entraps his foes! Ha!

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0804141290, Hardcover)

Bestselling and multiple award-winning author Margaret Atwood retells The Tempest, one of Shakespeare's most stirring and unforgettable plays.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 03 Mar 2016 19:41:10 -0500)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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