I was very excited when I first heard about the Hogarth Shakespeare project, where modern writers create novels inspired by Shakespeare’s plays. I’m a huge Margaret Atwood fan, so Hag-Seed, Atwood’s retelling of The Tempest is a book I was looking forward to reading! 🙂 (Before I received Hag-Seed, I bought the Folger Shakespeare Library edition of The Tempest as a companion. I was not familiar with the original play so I thought it would give me a better insight to Hag-Seed. But my purchase proved unnecessary as Hag-Seed contains a summarized version of The Tempest in the back of the book.)
Felix, the protagonist in Hag-Seed, is an artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theater Festival. He is in the prime of his career when tragic hits his personal life. His three-year-old daughter, the center of his universe (Felix’s wife had passed away in childbirth), succumbs to meningitis. Understandably, he is devastated by his loss and his right-hand man, Tony who is full of ambition uses this moment to betray Felix. Twelve years later, Felix is a nobody teaching a theater course at a prison, and fate brings him the opportunity to seek vengeance from the traitors who destroyed him.
Atwood’s fine retelling of The Tempest is not only a tale of revenge and retribution. It is a tale of enchantment. There is also a satirical element to the story.
Prisons are for incarceration and punishment, not for spurious attempts to educate those who cannot, by their very nature, be educated,
says “The Honorable” Sal, Minister of Justice.
But through Hag-Seed, Atwood argues prison education programs can lead to a reduction in recidivism, and I do agree with her. I think these programs give hope for a better future to juveniles and inmates incarcerated for minor offenses. Norway and Switzerland with their low re-offending rates have proven that prisoners can live as law-abiding citizens once they get out if they are provided with right training and skill development while in prison. So I wish countries like the US with high incarceration and recidivism rates would take note of that when designing their rehabilitation programs.