Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

October 17, 2016 Shakespearean 15

Howdy Bookworms!

Did everyone have a lovely weekend? It feels very sneaky of me to write such a thing because technically it’s Friday night even though you won’t read this until Monday morning. Weird, right? The Internet, man. What a place. Anywho, you’ll recall a while back when I told you about Vinegar Girl (review), and how it was a fun retelling of The Taming of the Shrew? I’m happy to report that the Hogarth series is still going strong and I just got my mitts on Margaret Atwood’s contribution, Hag-Seed. It’s a retelling of The Tempest and let me tell you, it’s… Weird. *I received a complimentary copy of this book for review consideration through NetGalley. Because libraries exist and I can also get free books there, you shouldn’t be too suspicious of my intentions here. No penguins exchanged hands, so.*

hag-seedThis series is kind of amazing for me personally, because I suuuuuuck at reading Shakespeare. I can’t do it, I need to see it performed or read a translated to modern vernacular version. I’ve tried to read Shakespeare on my own, but the only plays I’ve ever made it through have been those I studied in school. Nerd fail. Unfortunately, The Tempest isn’t one of the plays we covered in school, nor did it spawn any teen friendly movie versions. Thus, I really had no idea what I was getting into. But, you know. Margaret Atwood? Hard to go wrong there.

In Atwood’s version, the artistic director of a theater troupe is thwarted in his creative endeavors and finds himself living a hermetic life while teaching Shakespeare to inmates in a prison. (Prison seems to be kind of her thing lately… I mean The Heart Goes Last (review)?) Our protagonist turns the inmates into quite an inventive set of actors, directors, and costume designers. Eventually he decides to put on the play that he was working on when he was fired while simultaneously seeking revenge on those who destroyed his career. The play was, of course, The TempestWhich is also about revenge seeking. It’s a play within a play. Turtles all the way down.

My favorite Atwood has always been dystopian Atwood, but it was quite fun to see her tackle The Bard. Although I finished reading this quite a while ago (because I’m hideously behind schedule) I can’t help but giggle a little when I think of folks attempting to make Shakespeare relevant to a less than enthused audience because Lin-Manuel Miranda, our glorious national treasure, did this on SNL. If you dig Shakespeare retellings or The Tempestyou should totally read this book. And then ruminate on the parallels between Shakespeare and hip hop. And then go listen to Hamilton. Just because.

Talk to me, Bookworms! What’s your favorite Shakespeare play? And is there a movie version available with a rocking soundtrack? Asking for a friend…

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*


15 Responses to “Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood”

  1. Sarah's Book Shelves

    I’m with you on not being able to read Shakespeare in its original language. UGH! The Tempest is one of the only plays I actually know the story of b/c there was this club in NYC a long time ago that put on a completely raunchy show based on The Tempest…and it was a favorite destination of bachelorette parties. Ha.

    • wordsfor

      I now want to see the raunchy version of The Tempest. That sounds like a good time with a few cocktails!

  2. Megan M.

    I don’t think I’ve ever read The Tempest either. This retelling sounds intriguing though. Maybe we’ll see another wave of movie adaptations attempting to make Shakespeare cool for teens like we had in the 90s. The only one I’ve seen recently was the “Much Ado About Nothing” that Joss Whedon made at his house. I don’t think it had a cool soundtrack though, I can’t recall. (That LMM teacher sketch was pretty great.)

  3. Michelle

    I skipped this one because Atwood and Shakespeare retellings scared me away. I may have to change my mind now that you loved it!

  4. Rory

    I liked this one too. And I love that your current ad on your sidebar is for Audible featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda.

    • wordsfor

      Haaaaaaa! Oh the sidebar. I’m pretty sure the ads aren’t tailored to me (I mean, aside from them being bookish) but some days they feel too perfect.

  5. Jenny @ Reading the End

    LOOK if you are ever in London during the summer and you get a chance to see a play at the Globe, that is what I recommend. I already liked Shakespeare before seeing a play at the Globe (it was The Tempest, as it happens! starring Mark Rylance!), but that performance made me love him like 5000% more. Highly recommended.

    • wordsfor

      This is my problem, Jenny: I actually totally dig Shakespeare, I just can’t READ it. I saw a production of Two Gentlemen of Verona at Chicago Shakespeare Theater when I was in high school that blew my mind. And, alas, the one time I was in London it was January. (I saw Mama Mia. It was indoors. And lovely.)

  6. DoingDewey

    I love Shakespeare and retellings of his plays, so I definitely want to pick this up. It does seem like it should be hard to go wrong with Atwood 🙂

Talk to me, Bookworms!

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