When I first started A-level English Literature, the first book I read was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Since then, I have always wanted to read more of her work and it was only recently that I had the opportunity to do so. Her recent book, Hag-Seed, is a completely different scene to The Handmaid’s Tale. With the re-enactment of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, The Tempest, Atwood has not only entertained the reader with a good classic play, she has rewritten a modern day version of this and has merged this into the plot of the book. Bringing a new take on Shakespeare is always a treat to see but to see it completely rewritten and brought into the twenty first century is truly something wonderful to be enjoyed.
Hag-Seed is centred round the character, Felix, a single middle-aged man who recently suffered from the loss of his only child. Right before his production of The Tempest, he is fired from his job as director of the Makeshiweg Festival in Canada. He goes into hiding, finding a new job as a drama teacher in a prison, recreating one Shakespearian play after the other whilst plotting his revenge against those who took his job away from him. After twelve years, Felix and many of his students create The Tempest, which many of his former colleagues from this previous job attend. Felix and his students not only create the play, but several schemes to lure his old colleagues away from the public eye during the performance. He succeeds in doing this and blackmails his colleagues into giving his old job back.
The choice of the play to Felix was extremely important. He is the character of Prospero, a man who lost both his wife and child. He completely submerses himself into this role, and despite the many obstacles thrown his way, fights back until he is able to play the role and, finally say goodbye to his daughter. With Felix’s loss, I felt so much sympathy for him from start to finish. When he was finally able to say goodbye to his daughter, it was hard for me to say goodbye to him. It was a lovely book to read, full of revenge and forgiveness throughout the book. Whether you’re a fan of Atwood’s work or you liked watching and or reading The Handmaid’s Tale, I would strongly recommend reading Hag-Seed!
Words and image by Becky Abel