“A marvel of gorgeous yet economical prose, in the service of a story that’s utterly heartbreaking yet pierced by humor, with a plot that retains considerable subtlety even as the original’s back story falls neatly into place.”—The New York Times Book Review
Felix is at the top of his game as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. Now he’s staging aTempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, but it will also 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, which, after twelve years, arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison.
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.
Praise for Hag-Seed
“What makes the book thrilling, and hugely pleasurable, is how closely Atwood hews to Shakespeare even as she casts her own potent charms, rap-composition included. . . . Part Shakespeare, part Atwood, Hag-Seed is a most delicate monster—and that’s ‘delicate’ in the 17th-century sense. It’s delightful.”—Boston Globe
“Atwood has designed an ingenious doubling of the plot of The Tempest: Felix, the usurped director, finds himself cast by circumstances as a real-life version of Prospero, the usurped Duke. If you know the play well, these echoes grow stronger when Felix decides to exact his revenge by conjuring up a new version of The Tempest designed to overwhelm his enemies.”—Washington Post
“A funny and heartwarming tale of revenge and redemption . . . Hag-Seed is a remarkable contribution to the canon.”—Bustle
About the Author
Date of Birth:November 18, 1939
Place of Birth:Ottawa, Ontario
Education:B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967
Read an Excerpt
Wednesday, March 13, 2013.
The house lights dim. The audience quiets.
ON THE BIG FLATSCREEN: Jagged yellow lettering on black:
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’.
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.Closeup of Boatswain in a black knitted tuque. Water is thrown on him from offscreen. He is drenched.
BOATSWAIN: Fall to’t yarely, or we run ourselves aground!
Yare! Yare! Beware! Beware!
Let’s just do it,
Better get to it,
Trim the sails,
Fight the gales,
Unless you wantin’ to swim with the whales!
VOICES OFF: We’re all gonna drown!
BOATSWAIN: Get outta tha’ way! No time for play!
A bucketful of water hits him in the face.
VOICES OFF: Listen to me! Listen to me!
Don’t you know we’re royalty?
BOATSWAIN: Yare! Yare! The waves don’t care!
The wind is roarin’, the rain is pourin’,
All you do is stand and stare!
VOICES OFF: You’re drunk!
BOATSWAIN: You’re a idiot!
VOICES OFF: We’re doomed!
VOICES OFF: We’re sunk!
Closeup of Ariel in a blue bathing cap and iridescent ski goggles, blue makeup on the lower half of his face. He’s wearing a translucent plastic raincoat with ladybugs, bees, and butterflies on it. Behind his left shoulder there’s an odd shadow. He laughs soundlessly, points upward with his right hand, which is encased in a blue rubber glove. Lightning flash, thunderclap.
VOICES OFF: Let’s pray!
BOATSWAIN: What’s that you say?
VOICES OFF: We’re goin’ down! We’re gonna drown!
Ain’t gonna see the King no more!
Jump offa the ship, swim for the shore!
Ariel throws his head back and laughs with delight. In each of his blue rubber hands he’s holding a high-powered flashlight, in flicker mode.
The screen goes black.
A VOICE FROM THE AUDIENCE: What?
ANOTHER VOICE: Power’s off.
ANOTHER VOICE: Must be the blizzard. A line down somewhere.
Total darkness. Confused noise from outside the room. Yelling.
Shots are fired.
A VOICE FROM THE AUDIENCE: What’s going on?
VOICES, FROM OUTSIDE THE ROOM: Lockdown! Lockdown!
A VOICE FROM THE AUDIENCE: Who’s in charge here?
Three more shots.
A VOICE, FROM INSIDE THE ROOM: Don’t move! Quiet!
Keep your heads down! Stay right where you are.
Reading Group Guide
In order to provide reading groups with the most informed and thought-provoking questions possible, it is necessary to reveal certain aspects of the story in this novel. If you have not finished reading Hag-Seed, we respectfully suggest that you do so before reviewing this guide.
1. What are your thoughts about how Atwood reimagined The Tempest? Did her approach surprise you?
2. Compare and contrast Atwood’s Felix with Shakespeare’s Prospero.
3. Do you think there is a similarity between sorcerers/magic and theater? If you were to reimagine The Tempest in modern times, what profession would you give Prospero?
4. How do you think the notion of vengeance morphs and evolves throughout the book?
5. What do you think of Felix’s relationship with the Fletcher Correctional Players? Are they simply a means to an end? Or do you think he feels attachment to them?
6. Discuss the setting of the prison and the symbolic meaning it serves in connection to The Tempest. Do you think the correctional players relate to the play because it is about prisons?
7. Felix spends time teaching the inmates about Shakespeare, do you think he is a good teacher? Do you think we will always be teaching and performing Shakespeare?
8. Discuss the role that grief plays in the novel. How has the loss of his daughter, Miranda, haunted and impacted Felix throughout the novel?
9. What do you think of Atwood’s decision to stage a play within a novel that is based on that same play? (Felix stages The Tempest in Hag-Seed, a re-imagining of The Tempest.)
10. Discuss the ending, were you satisfied with the conclusion of Hag-Seed?