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This was suggestive. The play is about illusions: magic is the only weapon Prospero has. So I decided to set my novel in a prison. Other questions quickly arose. How to suggest that quality in a modern novel? Is the island a place of trial? Maybe both. And the characters: is Prospero wise and kind, or a tetchy old crank? Is Miranda sweet and pure, or a more savvy, tougher girl who knows about wombs and abuses and vilifies Caliban?

Is Caliban himself the Freudian id? Is he Natural Man? Is he a victim of colonial oppression, as he is frequently played these days?

The Tempest

But what about his rapist tendencies? Is he bad by nature? The Tempest is also a musical: it has more songs and dances and music in it than any other Shakespeare play. The main musician is Ariel, but Caliban also has musical talents.

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So I incorporated a lot of song and dance numbers in the novel. I called my novel Hag-Seed , which is one of the names used by Prospero when he is railing at Caliban, and Caliban is cursing him right back. Why name it after Caliban rather than Prospero? Hag-Seed is set in the year , in Canada, in a region somewhat close to a town where there is an actual Shakespeare festival. Act 1, Scene 1 — the actual tempest, with sailors running around and yelling — is in progress on screen, when suddenly there are sounds of a prison riot. Cut to the backstory.

This is what Shakespeare gives us in Act 1, Scene 2. In The Tempest , these characters are dukes and kings, but Canada does not have an overpopulation of those. The nearest equivalent to courtiers and influence-peddling and backroom deals is to be found in the world of federal politics. In isolation, one can hear voices.

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Felix has come to half-believe that the spirit of his only beloved child, Miranda — who died at the age of three — is with him, and is now He has the aid of a young hacker inmate, who uses digital technology to great effect: what is Ariel to Prospero but an extremely efficient special-effects man, especially good with virtual thunder and lightning, not to mention musical accompaniments?

Since no prisoner wants to play a girl, Felix hires a female actor to play the part of Miranda. Meanwhile, the spirit-girl Miranda, fascinated with the play, decides to … but no spoilers! What might happen then? Writing Hag-Seed was strangely invigorating, and also very informative. Why do Trinculo and Stephano go on and on about Caliban smelling like a fish? Are they just being bullies?


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No, came the shattering insight! No bread, no butter, no pepper. Oh, and marmosets. No wonder Prospero is in such a mad hurry to get back to Milan. Facebook Twitter Pinterest. Topics Margaret Atwood. William Shakespeare Fiction features. Reuse this content. Order by newest oldest recommendations.

Show 25 25 50 All. Threads collapsed expanded unthreaded. On a nearby island, the exiled Duke of Milan, Prospero, tells his daughter, Miranda, that he has caused the storm with his magical powers.


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On the island, castaways from the wreck begin to appear. Prospero secretly approves of their love, but tests the pair by enslaving Ferdinand. After secretly watching Miranda and Ferdinand exchange vows, Prospero releases Ferdinand and consents to their marriage. Having all his enemies under his control, Prospero decides to forgive them.


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  • As all except Caliban and Ariel prepare to leave the island, Prospero, who has given up his magic, bids farewell to the island and the audience. From the Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Characters in the Play. Ariel , a spirit, servant to Prospero.

    The Tempest | Folger Shakespeare Library

    Caliban , an inhabitant of the island, servant to Prospero. Alonso , king of Naples.

    tsilen.tk Gonzalo , councillor to Alonso and friend to Prospero. Trinculo , servant to Alonso. Scene 1 Scene 2. Scene 1 Scene 2 Scene 3.