87 pages 2 hours read

Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed: William Shakespeare's The Tempest Retold

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2016

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Character Analysis

Felix Phillips/Duke

Felix is the main character of Hag-Seed. Though the novel is narrated in the third person, Felix’s feelings and actions are the center of the narrative voice. Felix is an eccentric artistic director of a prestigious Shakespearean festival, but his life is turned upside down when he loses first his wife and daughter (to two separate tragic illnesses) and then his job (when a former friend and colleague, Tony, fires him and takes over his role). Felix spends the next 12 years largely secluded from society, nursing hallucinations of his dead daughter. He takes a job teaching Shakespeare at a prison, where he builds a reputation for developing literacy through Shakespeare. This enables him to enact his revenge upon Tony.

Felix is an unreliable narrator; at times he is clear about his bad intentions and deep resentments, while at other times he is in denial about his own wrongdoings. Felix creates a prison out of his own mind and finds a blueprint for his inner conflict in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. He even changes his name from Felix Phillips to Felix Duke, a direct homage to the former Duke of Milan, Prospero. Felix models himself on Prospero, the vengeful sorcerer who also imprisons himself psychologically.