Skip to main content
The Folger Spotlight

Words, Words, Words: ‘Hag-Seed’ by Margaret Atwood

The Folger’s virtual book club, Words, Words, Words continues on Thursday, March 4 with a discussion of Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed. To get ready for the conversation, we’ve compiled some introductory information on this innovative retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

What is Hag-Seed about?

Felix is at the top of his game as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. Now he’s staging a Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, but it will also heal emotional wounds. Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And also brewing revenge, which, after twelve years, arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison.

Margaret Atwood’s innovative take on Shakespeare’s play of enchantment, retribution, and second chances leads us on an interactive, illusion-ridden journey filled with new surprises and wonders of its own.


Critical Reception

“A marvel of gorgeous yet economical prose, in the service of a story that’s utterly heartbreaking yet pierced by humor, with a plot that retains considerable subtlety even as the original’s back story falls neatly into place.”—The New York Times

“It’s a magical eulogy to Shakespeare, leading the reader through a fantastical reworking of the original but infusing it with ironic nods to contemporary culture, thrilling to anyone who knows The Tempest intimately, but equally compelling to anyone not overly familiar with the work.”—The Guardian

Hag-Seed was long listed for the 2017 Bailey’s Women Prize in Fiction.

About the author: Margaret Atwood

Margaret AtwoodMargaret Eleanor Atwood is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, teacher, environmental activist, and inventor. Since 1961, she has published 18 books of poetry, 18 novels, 11 books of nonfiction, nine collections of short fiction, eight children’s books, and two graphic novels, as well as a number of small press editions of both poetry and fiction. Atwood has won numerous awards and honors for her writing, including the Booker Prize (twice), Arthur C. Clarke Award, Governor General’s Award, Franz Kafka Prize, Princess of Asturias Awards, and the National Book Critics and PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Awards. A number of her works have been adapted for film and television.

Atwood’s works encompass a variety of themes including gender and identity, religion and myth, the power of language, climate change, and “power politics”.  Many of her poems are inspired by myths and fairy tales which interested her from a very early age. Atwood is a founder of the Griffin Poetry Prize and Writers’ Trust of Canada. She is also a Senior Fellow of Massey College, Toronto.

Meet our Bookshop Partner: Bridge Street Books

Bridge Street Books

This month, we are excited to partner with Bridge Street Books, a neighborhood bookstore with an international reputation.

Occupying a brick townhouse on Pennsylvania Ave for 40 years, Bridge Street Books stocks a wide selection of trade, university, and small press publications. They’ve got your bestsellers too! Learn more at

The storefront is open to a limited capacity from 11AM-8PM Tues-Sat and 12-6PM Sun-Mon. Curb-side pickup and shipping are available by calling 202.965.5200 or emailing

You can also order directly on, or download the audiobook version of this title from

Shakespeare bust with glassesLimited spaces are still available to join in the conversation on Thursday, March 4. Visit our website to register and stay tuned for additional Folger resources to enrich the conversation.