Need a quick overview of the plot, characters, genre and context of The Tempest and Hag-seed? Wondering how these texts fit into the Module A syllabus? Don't worry. This article will explain it all!
What’s the go with Tempest and Hag-Seed? What is a Textual Conversation even meant to be? In this The Tempest and Hag-Seed cheat sheet, we give you all the important “deets” including a quick summary of the plot, characters, genres and, context of each text.
We also break down the Module A syllabus into individual statements and connect to the texts.
In simple terms, Module A is a study of a pair of texts that share a direct intertextual relationship…
In other words, the pair of texts are having a conversation with one another. Wait…what?
What does this mean?
The newer text will usually retell, comment or engage with the older text to engage modern audiences and convey their message.
You need to focus on the commonalities and differences between texts. You need to figure out what the newer text is saying about different aspects of the older text.
Yes! And also no.
The module’s focus on context is not as strong as the previous syllabus’ Module A rubric. However, you still need to be aware of the context and its influence on the creation of the text.
Some aspects include:
To learn more about Module A, read our Year 12 English Study Guide article: Module A: Textual Conversations.
Shakespeare’s The Tempest tells the story of Prospero, the Duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda who have been marooned on an island in the Mediterranean.
They were exiled there by Prospero’s brother, Antonio, who tried to murder them both. They escaped to the island with the help of Gonzalo and enslaved Caliban.
Prospero orchestrates the wrecking of the ship carrying his brother and the king of Naples, Alonso, back to Italy. He uses his magic to manipulate the King’s son, Ferdinand, into marrying his daughter.
The play concludes with the cast returning to Italy for the marriage of Miranda to Ferdinand, uniting the families in conflict.
The Tempest is what is called a “Late Romance”. This was a categorisation given to some of the later plays by Shakespeare that defied easy classification.
The Late Romances blended genres, in this case comedy and tragedy:
The Tempest blends aspects of tragedy – Prospero seeks revenge against those who have wronged him – with elements of comedy – the resolution of the play in marriage and sub-plot of the three clowns (Trinculo, Stephano, and Caliban).
This combination of genres served to keep audiences guessing about the play’s resolution. We’re never quite sure whether Prospero will seek brutal, bloody, magical revenge… or if he will reconcile and forgive.
It is important to be aware of the text’s genre, so that you can discuss how it challenges the traditions of form to represent discovery. It does this, for example, by subverting audience expectations.
Prospero is the former Duke of Milan. While Duke, he became obsessed with learning magic and handed the running of the kingdom to his brother, Antonio. He and Miranda escaped with the help of Gonzalo. He is an intelligent, powerful, and manipulative figure. He uses his magic to orchestrate all the events on the island.
Prospero’s brother. He is a treacherous individual driven by self-interest. While on the ship with Alonso and his retinue he encourages Sebastian to kill his brother, King Alonso.
The King of Naples, he is powerful man who is bereaved by the seeming loss of his son, Ferdinand. While Ferdinand is missing, he is protected from his brother by Prospero and Ariel, but also threatened and imprisoned by Prospero. Alonso is willing to be punished for his part in betraying Prospero, demonstrating his nobility.
Alonso’s brother; he is disgruntled with Alonso. Antonio attempts to convert this to anger and regicide. He is thwarted by Ariel.
Prospero’s daughter. She is a quintessential renaissance girl. She has been raised on the island away from men. Ferdinand is the first man she meets aside from her father Prospero and his slave Caliban. She falls in love with Ferdinand at first sight, although it is unclear if this is a consequence of their connection or her father’s powers.
Alonso’s son. He falls in love with Miranda and is willingly enslaved by Prospero so he can spend time with Miranda. He agrees to marry Miranda after she proposes to him. He is not the most quick-witted of characters and Prospero often talks him in circles.
The indigenous inhabitant of the island. The son of Sycorax the witch, he is a deformed figure. He was enslaved by Prospero after attempting to rape Miranda. He plots to kill Prospero with Trinculo and Stephano, who he mistakes for gods. He is thwarted and repents.
A sprite enslaved by Prospero. Ariel manufactures the tempest of the text’s title to shipwreck Alonso and his retinue. He does Prospero’s bidding under threat of torture and the promise of release. He is freed at the end of the play.
Prospero’s advisor and friend from Milan. He saved Prospero by organising a boat. He is an idealist who is naïve and mocked for his views. He interrupts the plot to kill Alonso. He is spared Ariel’s horrid form in the banquet scene.
Shakespeare wrote his plays during the Elizabethan era in the 16th Century. The Tempest was Shakespeare’s final solely authored play, and was first staged in 1611
This society is vastly different from the one we know now.
So, it is important that you know different aspects of Shakespeare’s context to examine how it influenced The Tempest.
The Elizabethan people were highly religious. They believed in pre-determinism; every person’s life has already been planned by God before they were born.
So, people had no free will and control over their own lives.
This meant that people were often categorised into “good” and “evil”. And, those who are deemed evil cannot become “good”… like Caliban.
People in the Elizabethan era believed in magic.
They believed in superstitions, witches and magicians.
They even killed alleged “witches” by drowning or burning them.
So, Shakespeare’s use of magic in The Tempest was believable to the Elizabethan people. This made its meaning more powerful.
He used it to express positive emotions, as well as representing manipulation and selfishness. He explores both the positive and negative aspects of magic.
Magic is used to explain the misfortunes and luck in the world.
Women were seen as objects of their fathers or husbands during Shakespeare’s time. This meant that they were inferior to men and do not have any power.
In The Tempest, there are no women on stage aside from the goddesses in Prospero’s masque and Miranda.
This highlights how men ignore women’s needs, importance and complexity. They only value women who are “innocent and pure“, as Gonzalo states.
From the 16th century to the mid-20th century, several European powers, including Britain, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and France established colonies in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and the Americas.
These actions often involved the imposition of their own government and cultures upon the colonies, allowing for the exploitation of natural resources, the economy and the people.
Shakespeare took his chance to explore the complexity of colonisation.
He understands that colonisation is a way of achieving power. However, he questions its morale because of the numerous issues brought upon the native inhabitants of the land.
This is seen with Prospero controlling the natives for his own selfish reasons.
Felix is the Artistic Director of the famous Makeshiweg theatre festival. Felix, loses his job because of Tony and Sal’s betrayal, who want his position and power. They took advantage of Felix’s grief for his dead wife and daughter and convince the artistic board to fire Felix.
Now, lost and grieving, Felix isolates himself in an off-grid cabin. He spends 9 years in seclusion imagining a life with his dead daughter, Miranda. In his mind, she grows from a child and into a teenager. He nurtures her as if she were real.
One day, he stumbles across an advertisement searching for a teaching position for the local prison’s literacy program. He applies under a false identity, Mr Duke. However, Estelle, the prison supervisor, recognises his true identity. Admiring his work, she hires Felix to teach literature through Shakespeare and agrees to keep his identity a secret.
Felix teaches Shakespeare’s plays, such as Julius Caesar and Macbeth, to the prisoners. They explore themes, rewrite certain parts of the text to modernise it and even perform it for the prison TV.
In the 4th year of the program, Estelle informs Felix that 2 government officials will be watching the play, Tony and Sal. Knowing this, Felix set his mind on revenge.
He chooses The Tempest, his unfinished performance of Shakespeare’s final play from over a decade ago. He hires his original actor, Anne-Marie to act as Miranda in this production.
When Tony and Sal arrives at the prison, the prisoners, Felix and Anne-Marie begin their theatre production. Instead of a pre-recorded performance, Tony and Sal experience a live theatre performance. However, things turn sour when the prisoners stage prison riot, under Felix’s direction, whilst continuing to read lines from The Tempest.
The two men fear for their lives. Now drug-induced, they begin spilling their dark secrets. Felix records their rambles and blackmails Tony.
Felix now has his job back and Tony is forced to withdraw from politics. Finally, Felix realises that it is time to let go of his daughter, Miranda.
Hag-seed is a psychological fiction novel. The novels strongly focuses on the spiritual and emotional characterisation of the characters.
The plot is driven by the character’s mental state, motives and explanations for their mental state, as opposed to external actions.
Common literary devices used in psychological fiction are streams of consciousness, flashbacks, and inner dialogue.
Felix / Mr Duke:
Felix is a renowned theatre director. However, he falls into grief, and sadness when Tony fired him. With a dead wife and daughter, and no job, he creates a new persona, Mr Duke. Mr Duke begins a theatre production of The Tempest at the prison. The play is driven by his resentment for Tony and desire for revenge. Through the play, he also attempts to revive memories of his daughter, Miranda.
Tony is manipulative and cunning. He was Felix’ assistant in the theatre production. However, behind Felix’s back, he manages to convince the theatre board to fire Felix and make him the Artistic Director instead. Tony abuses this position to become a politician and gain power.
Sal works with Felix and is a provincial politician. He is selfish and abuses his power. However, unlike Tony, he is sympathetic because he is capable of love (his son) and apologises for his mistakes.
Miranda is Felix’s daughter who dies of meningitis when she was 3 years old. Felix often imagines her as a ghost visiting him and keeping him company. In his imagination, she grows from a child and into a teenager.
Anne-Marie is a struggling actress with a passion for dance. When Tony fired Felix, he also shut down Felix’s production of The Tempest, causing Anne-Marie her career. However, she is given a second chance to play Miranda in Mr Duke’s (Felix’s) prison production of The Tempest. She is tough and confident.
Estelle is Mr Duke’s (Felix’s) supervisor at the prison. She figures out that Mr Duke is actually Felix and helps him take revenge on Tony and Sal. She is very passionate about the prison theatre program.
8Handz is a hacking genius prisoner who plays Ariel in the prison’s production of The Tempest. He also made the special effects for Felix’s grand identity reveal to Tony and Sal and recorded their induced hysteria.
Hag-seed is written by Canadian female writer, Margaret Atwood in 2016. This society is significantly different from Shakespeare’s context. So, it is important that you understand Atwood’s context to figure out why she transformed Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Let’s examine some key aspects of Atwood’s context.
Modern society is secular.
This means that they are not driven by religion. So, people don’t believe in “good” and “evil” and predeterminism anymore.
This also means that people don’t really believe in magic anymore.
So, instead of relying on magic, Atwood explains these phenomenons with technology (special effects) and imaginations.
Unlike Shakespeare’s time, women in modern Western society have more rights. They are viewed as individual beings instead of men’s products.
As such, Atwood’s women were more empowered, knowledgeable and strong.
We see this with Miranda. Shakespeare’s Miranda is innocent and sexualised by men. Whereas, Atwood’s Miranda is much more powerful and knowledgeable.
Atwood also introduces strong and intelligent female characters like Anne-Marie and Estelle.
To properly analyse The Tempest and Hagseed, you need to know NESA’s rubric for Module A:
In this module, students explore the ways in which the comparative study of texts can reveal resonances and dissonances between and within texts. Students consider the ways that a reimagining or reframing of an aspect of a text might mirror, align or collide with the details of another text. In their textual studies, they also explore common or disparate issues, values, assumptions or perspectives and how these are depicted. By comparing two texts students understand how composers (authors, poets, playwrights, directors, designers and so on) are influenced by other texts, contexts and values, and how this shapes meaning.
Students identify, interpret, analyse and evaluate the textual features, conventions, contexts, values and purpose of two prescribed texts. As students engage with the texts they consider how their understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of both texts has been enhanced through the comparative study and how the personal, social, cultural and historical contextual knowledge that they bring to the texts influences their perspectives and shapes their own compositions.
By responding imaginatively, interpretively and critically students explore and evaluate individual and common textual features, concepts and values. They further develop skills in analysing the ways that various language concepts, for example motif, allusion and intertextuality, connect and distinguish texts and how innovating with language concepts, form and style can shape new meaning. They develop appropriate analytical and evaluative language required to compose informed, cohesive responses using appropriate terminology, grammar, syntax and structure.
By composing critical and creative texts in a range of modes and media, students develop the confidence, skills and appreciation to express a considered personal perspective.
Was that too much to take in?
Don’t worry. We will break it down together and link the main concepts to The Tempest and Hag-seed.
“Students explore the ways in which the comparative study of texts can reveal resonances and dissonances between and within texts. Students consider the ways that a reimagining or reframing of an aspect of a text might mirror, align or collide with the details of another text.”
In simple terms, you must identify the similarities and differences between the two texts.
Let’s define some words in the rubric to clarify what you need to search for:
So, how do we do this?
You need to identify the details that Atwood kept the same or changed from Shakespeare’s text. Which parts of her text mirror, align or collide with Shakespeare’s text?
Then, ask yourself why? What does this reveal about the wider world?
“In their textual studies, they also explore common or disparate issues, values, assumptions or perspectives and how these are depicted. By comparing two texts students understand how composers (authors, poets, playwrights, directors, designers and so on) are influenced by other texts, contexts, and values, and how this shapes meaning.”
This dot point further expands on the above findings.
So, to do this effectively, you need to first understand that texts are a reflection of their contexts.
Every creative decision is a result of the composer’s context.
And, every creative decision serves a wider purpose in conveying a message.
This means that you have to analyse how Atwood’s and Shakespeare’s context influences their creative decision AND figure out why Atwood has chosen to mirror, align or collide her text to Shakespeare.
Remember, this dot point is all about context and purpose.
Before we move on to the next dot point, let’s define some keywords:
For example, Shakespeare creates a Miranda that is innocent and often sexualised by other male characters, whereas, Atwood’s Miranda is strong, and intelligent.
This is because Shakespeare’s society views women as a product of men, whereas, Atwood’s society recognises women as individual beings.
“They further develop skills in analysing the ways that various language concepts, for example, motif, allusion, and intertextuality, connect and distinguish texts and how innovating with language concepts, form and style can shape new meaning.”
Let’s break this statement down into 2 parts.
You need to identify these techniques and analyse them. Examine how they convey meaning and link it back to your arguments.
Secondly, you also need to know the form and style of your texts and figure out their purpose.
You need to analyse the experimentation and the challenging of traditional concepts, form, and style in these texts.
You also need to analyse how the composer uses innovation to convey their message and purpose.
“As students engage with the texts they consider how their understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of both texts has been enhanced through the comparative study and how the personal, social, cultural and historical contextual knowledge that they bring to the texts influences their perspectives and shapes their own compositions.”
To simply put it, the way YOU interpret a text is ultimately shaped by your context…
Your political and social environments, personal lives, and your personal and wider history all influence your readings.
For example, when you read The Tempest, you may think that magic is simply fictional and that the treatment of Miranda is wrong.
However, if you were living in Shakespeare’s time you may think that magic is real and the men’s treatment of Miranda is ok.
This is because your values and perspectives are ultimately shaped by your context.
Now you know what you need to look for in The Tempest and Hag-Seed, you need to build your notes and write your practice essays.
In part 2, we explain how to build notes and write a comparative Mod A Essay.