Book Review: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Hag-SeedHag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some of you may remember that this time last year I made a New Year’s Resolution to read every Shakespeare play by the time 2016 was done. I hate to admit it but I met my match this year. 2016 brought with it too much chaos and upheaval, both personally and in the world in general, and it seriously cut into my reading time. So now I am heading into 2017 with my head bowed and many Shakespeare plays still on the to-read pile. But even if I didn’t meet my reading goals for the year, I am very glad that I made time for Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed.

SYNOPSIS: A modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Hag-Seed was a fascinating story of loss, revenge, and letting go of the past. Theatre director, Felix Phillips, grieving the loss of his infant daughter, Miranda, and obsessed with the production of The Tempest that he is planning as a tribute to her, is devastated when his right-hand man betrays him. Exiled from his job, powerless and bitter, he retreats from the world and plots his revenge. All alone, except for a vision of his daughter that keeps him company, he waits for his opportunity to strike back at his enemies and regain his rightful place. Eventually he gets a job at a prison, teaching Shakespeare and producing plays with the inmates there. When he learns that his enemies, now powerful government officials, will be attending the prison’s production of The Tempest, he sees his opportunity for revenge at last.

MY THOUGHTS: Ask anyone who’s read The Handmaid’s Tale and you’ll know that Margaret Atwood is a master story-teller in her own right so it should come as no surprise that an Atwood and Shakespeare partnership is simply spellbinding. Atwood added a play within a play aspect to the story that was interesting. It was fascinating to watch some of the characters shift roles as the book progressed, especially Felix’s Miranda who drifted back and forth from Prospero’s daughter to the spritely Ariel in a way that reinforced the dreamlike fantasy of the original story. I also loved how Atwood used the prisoners turned actors to add depth, context, and sympathy for the Hag-Seed, Caliban and to explore the deeper themes of the play.

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the upcoming adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale that is coming to Hulu in 2017 but I would also love to see a film version of Hag-Seed. With extremely visual, almost cinematic descriptions, and passages of the play adapted into rap music and dance, Hag-Seed, and especially the Fletcher Correctional Player’s production of The Tempest would translate beautifully to film.

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