Vengeance. A prison. An immersive performance. These elements combine to form an easily accessible re-envisioning of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed.
An established play director, Felix, has been putting on interesting interpretations of classic plays for years, but when he’s suddenly forced out of his newest endeavor of The Tempest, his life gets set on a new, albeit obscure, trajectory. Living in seclusion under an assumed name, Felix begins teaching in a literacy program in the local prison where he’s able to make Shakespeare’s plays his canonical material to engage his pupils. Having had years of success in this, the program soon comes under threat of being shut down by the very people who ruined Felix’s life. With what could be the last class, Felix decides to put on his previously abandoned Tempest, with an added amount of revenge sprinkled in for good measure.
The story was able to use direct quotations from The Tempest, which provided an intriguing meta effect to the re-imagining of being a play within a play . The narrative was also able to offer some interesting interpretations of the text through the inmates’ perspectives of what happens to the characters (which I’m sure that many (future) readers will appreciate when it comes time for them to read and interpret this play for their literature classes!). I wasn’t overly impressed with the characterization of the inmates (due to the lack of it, aside from Felix’s outline of their convictions and background in a written list, the inmates felt like one big stereotyped stand-in) because it made it feel like they were purely a means to an end and not actual people with unique traits. I did, however, enjoy this version of the story more than I did the original play, but perhaps it’s because the more overt, explanatory nature of the narrative made it more accessible than the play.
Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.
*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.