I must admit, when I caught sight of this book on the shelf at the library, I snagged it without even reading the cover, simply because I knew I had read Margaret Atwood before and loved it. So I began Hag-Seed without really knowing what I was getting into.
The book is a part of Hogarth Shakespeare, a project I actually hadn’t heard of before. It aims to see Shakespeare’s works retold by acclaimed modern novelists. The Tempest is the story being retold here, and to be honest, it’s a play I’m not familiar with, but Atwood summarizes it at the end of the book.
The premise of Hag-Seed is that a washed-up play director with a reputation for pushing boundaries gets screwed out of his job by a colleague. He has an epic meltdown, sets his sights on revenge, and then moves to a new town to start over, teaching literacy through theatre (read: Shakespeare) at a local prison. He takes Shakespeare’s plays, and adapts them for his rag-tag group of convicts, letting them take some artistic license, of course. Together they do costumes, set design, and even film the production at the end of the class to be viewed by the other inmates. Of course, the play being done when we are a part of the story is The Tempest. The director is definitely a little bit bonkers, obsessed with his former life and bringing his eccentricities with him to his new one, but it makes for an interesting read to see how everything comes together at the end.
I wouldn’t call it an easy beach read, but I would definitely say it’s worth a try! The beginning dragged a little for me, so don’t put it down when you realize the story doesn’t truly start till a few chapters in. Find it at your local library, and give Hogarth Shakespeare a try! I’d like to find another book from the project, and give it a try, too.
2 thoughts on “Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold, by Margaret Atwood”
I wrote my Master’s thesis on Atwood and so this has been on my “to read” list for months. The problem is that I can’t remember if I’ve read The Tempest (part of me thinks not only did I read it, but I may have taught it). Either way, it’s been about 10 years so I should either just read it again or forge ahead with Atwood’s retelling and quit stalling. I’ve only read a couple Atwood I haven’t liked so I know there isn’t much to lose!
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I hadn’t read it and still enjoyed the book! It did make me feel like I probably should get to it, though. Fun that your masters thesis was on Atwood and you still manage to enjoy her writing! I know delving into someone’s works too deeply can ruin it for you sometimes.