Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

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“How he has fallen. How deflated. How reduced. Cobbling together this bare existence, living in a hovel, ignored..”

“It rankles. It festers. It brews vengefulness. If only…”  Atwood is the perfect author for the Shakespeare series. Taking place in a correctional facility, inmates are the players in The Tempest that Felix is going to use for revenge and somehow shake off his mortal grief! Having lost his wife and then years later his beloved child Miranda, being betrayed when he was at the top of his career, the most artistic period of his life he is now reduced and obsessed with revenge. This play is going to be one no one will ever forget! When he begins working with the gruff bunch, Atwood’s clever writing of the interactions between the men and Felix captivated me. This is just one taste.

“Now,” says Felix, “let’s talk about Ariel. Who thinks he might like the part?”

“No way, man,” says a voice from the back of the room. “Not playing a fairy, that’s final. Like I said. “SnakeEye, a man of definite opinions.

A universal sentiment: no hands go up, all faces close. He can hear what they’re thinking: as with Miranda, so with Ariel. Too weak. Too gay. Out of the question.

 

The initial reactions the prisoners have is genuine and funny but the clever way Felix  manages to ‘school them’ about the meaning behind the play and every character is brilliant! I was reminded of my high school years, the plays I was in and how the guys never wanted to be associated with any character that came off as feminine. In a correctional facility regardless of the severity of the crime, it’s hard to fathom faces not closing up, refusing to play such a part. I love Atwood’s spin on The Tempest!

Felix, my heart went out to him and how he is dealing with the loss of his sweet beloved child, Miranda. Is he keeping her close, grounding her to earth? There are many prisoners here, in the play, in the actual facility, prisoners of loss, grief, revenge. We are all prisoners of something, aren’t we? Will Felix be able to have his day? How, how to be a success when his play must be taped on video (can’t have prisoners see it any other way, too dangerous).  Can he regain some of the life he lost, get back what was taken? Deviltry ensues, but the fun kind! Hag-Seed played in my head like a film, I was putting faces to everyone. It begins lightly and then gains momentum, 12 years of stewing in bitterness and pain can do a lot to a man! The magic is the changes in the prisoners, how Shakespeare enters their souls and thought processes. I still feel tickled by the ‘gay’ comment and how Felix removes labels  and broadens the tunnel vision the men have, to brew excitement about characters that would have otherwise been dismissed and uh….dissed. It takes passion to chip through that macho take on life… Imagine… Shakespeare in prison! I promise it’s a fun ride, and maybe Felix was have his day. Maybe he can be released from his cloak of grief and escape the hovel his life has become. Sure, a few people may be made to look like fools, but some need such a lesson in humility!

Delightful! Atwood at her best.

Publication Date: October 11, 2o16  Crown Publishing, Hogarth

 

 

 

 

 

 

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