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Summary: Difference Between The Tempest by William Shakespeare and Hagseed by Margaret Atwood

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A comparison between the two pieces The Tempest by William Shakespeare and Hagseed by Margaret Atwood allows a modern adaptation audience can use to better comprehend the morals and values of the Elizabethan era. The ideal of The Tempest is that those who are considered royal nobles will be more luxurious and wealthier. The play was not only for the entertainment of others, but also for a way to convey political moral viewings at the time of the 17th century. Hagseed is a novelistic adaptation of the tempest that is influenced through contemporary perspectives and context, which is made apparent using metafiction to recast characters and plots. As a result, the intertextuality of the modern adaptation alludes and reimagines concepts of the Elizabethan era and catalyzes a modern viewpoint.

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Being composers of different time periods, Shakespeare and Atwood hold different values and perspectives on particular issues. One main motif that carries out through both texts is the idea of imprisonment vs. freedom. However, the idea is more literal in the novel compared to the play. Attwood concerns herself with woman’s dignity throughout the novel. Through Hagseed she sheds light on how women are imprisoned by social restrictions, confining them to nurturing and nursing. Prospero in The Tempest expects nothing but obedience from Miranda and in return he gains structure and routine. However, Felix and Miranda have a relationship based off of the symbolism of love. Shakespeare’s version of Miranda is deprived of freedom, growth, individuality, and confined to the imprisonment of her own body. In his version there is only a single female character. Attwood alludes to the lack of woman by creating four main female characters; Miranda, Anne-Marie, Estelle, and the old lady who Felix rents his isolated cottage from. Attwood gives demeaned characters a chance to speak and express their individuality through their dialogue and qualities they create for themselves. The tempest has innovated a plot which allows Attwood to express the values she holds in woman’s rights, colliding with the values Shakespeare held and raised concerns on views built upon woman during the 17th century.

Both Shakespeare and Attwood signify specific prisons the characters are metaphorically trapped in. By comparing the text, it becomes clear the parallels in which characters become imprisoned in. Attwood questions The Tempest, asking why Prospero is to be released from “this bare island” to embark on his finale journey. Shakespeare uses Prospero’s forcible domination over natives like Caliban to represent the real-world domination of slavery and forced empowerment the people had over natives. Prospero showed kindness and curiosity of life for the new world and then took it for his own. He then preceded to treat the natives as his slaves to assert dominance and impose his new way of life. On the other hand, the idea of imprisonment and freedom appear in Hagseed as more figuratively. Instead of prison being associated with punishment, she uses it as a place to learn self-control and reformation. When Prospero calls Caliban “Hagseed” she turns it from an insult reclaiming the name and turning into an acclimation. In the Tempest Prospero never really learns from his wrongs. In his mind the enslavement of Caliban is the moral thing to do because he is a monster and knows nothing of human nature. Imprisonment and freedom are represented by almost every character. They all hold themselves back and are trapped by something in their lives whether that is by simply being a woman or in a more literal sense trapped and enslaved by someone else’s doing. Freedom is only brought by those of others setting them free. No one has self-freedom. Whereas in Hagseed imprisonment is represented by external factors that characters are internalizing through self-doubt and shame. By conflicting battles through past and present or what is a true reality. And freedom comes at the cost of realizing what true self-worth is and gaining back self-control. They are at jurisdiction of their own freedom, not anyone else.

 Attwood uses Shakespeare’s Tempest as a reimagination of modern-day conflictions that are still represented today. She does however give characters a greater sense of self-worth and knowledge of greater purpose compared to the characters in The Tempest whose fate is mostly decided by those around them.    

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