by Margaret Atwood

Read time: about 4 minutes

As part of celebration of 400 years of Shakespeare, Hogarth classics has started this series where a prominent author is picked to write a retelling of a Shakespeare’s play as we will see it today. Having read only a couple of plays in school by the literary genius, this endeavor gave me an opportunity to delve back into the classic world of Shakespeare, escaping the agony of interpreting his words by myself. Hag-seed is a retelling of ‘The Tempest’ by Margaret Atwood (famous for her book ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’). This book is nothing like the moving dystopian novel she wrote earlier but entertaining all the same.

Cover page

There have been two cover pages released for this book. Since I received a review copy it did not have a cover. But those who intend to buy the book are not going to be disappointed.

The book with red cover is brilliantly detailed. The beautiful font and the creative barbed wires give away the setting of the book but only slightly.

However the other cover with the eye of the hag-seed is my favorite. It is a sketch of the negative character. It doesn’t reveal much but those who read the story are going to relate to the eye on the cover.


The book is primarily about Mr Felix. He is a successful play director. Think of him as a creative director who just wants to focus on his art and considers everything else vanity. Administration is not his area of interest and he hates board meetings. It only makes sense for him to hire someone else to do these for him so that he can focus of the plays.

There comes the villain of the story. He will overthrow the creative idol and take over the company.

These two characters are the prime elements of the story but there are plenty more who are going to be fun reading about. Watch out for Miranda. She is the best thing Mr Felix has created.


There was a tempest of Shakespeare. A play within a play. And then there is a tempest retelling by Margaret Atwood. Both the stories are parallel to each other. A director is dethroned right when he is preparing for his next play, ‘The Tempest’. Grieved by the professional and personal loss Felix exiles himself all along planning his own revenge. An opportunity for a same knocks at his door when he is teaching at a correctional facility, his students being non life threatening criminals.

Then begins the preparation for ‘The Tempest’. Felix is directing the play and there are some rules. Nobody is allowed to abuse unless it is in Shakespearean language. They work as a team but the director is a dictator. The play preparation part is quite hilarious. Atwood has played well with humor and characteristics of the prisoners. If someone does not know how plays are made, this is how they learn about the backstage drama.

Everything goes on fine until the time for real revenge comes. It falls flat towards the end when the preparation for something grand does not justify the event. There is a glimpse of insanity too on the play but that is not harnessed well.

This is no dystopian novel which will leave you biting your lips. It’s a simple retelling of the play which may entice you but not fulfill the thirst for thrill.


Margaret Atwood is a brilliant story teller. This is quite evident in the book. The Shakespearean references are aptly used. The narration is extraordinary. The interpretation of the master tempest is great.

Good points

The cover page is great. The book is on tempest, one of the best plays written by Shakespeare. That’s a point for the book by itself. The characterization is brilliant. Readers will get to meet different kinds of people and spirits and what not. The content is quite interesting for most of the parts.

Bad points

The book does not quench the thirst of thrill for those who expect a grand revenge out of the tempest retelling. Also, because it is a retelling the story gets quite predictable. Miranda’s character is not harnessed to its full potential.


It is an interesting retelling of ‘The Tempest’. Worth a read.

Whom do I recommend this to

This is for those who like to read retellings of classic tales. Those who enjoy Shakespeare are going to love this too.

Quotable quotes

Noble people don’t do things for the money, they simply have money, and that’s what allows they to be noble. They don’t really have to think about it much; they sprout benevolent acts the way trees sprout leaves.

_An ARC copy of the book was sent by the publisher. The opinion here are my own, completely uninfluenced. _

Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH merakipost.com