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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > DECEMBER 2016 > Charms all o’erthrown

Charms all o’erthrown

Margaret Atwood reconceives Shakespeare’s final play, with mixed results

EDITOR’S CHOICE

Hag-Seed

Margaret Atwood

Knopf Canada

ANY ACT OF artistic performance shares a close affinity with magic. Stephen King has made this connection in numerous essays, forewords, and introductions to his own work, and in his recent memoir, Bruce Springsteen refers to the connection forged between the musicians onstage and the audiences at their marathon concerts as a “magic trick.” William Shakespeare literalizes the connection between art and magic in his towering final play by making the main character an actual sorcerer, capable of conjuring storms and consorting with spirits. In the concluding scene of The Tempest, Prospero rejects his “rough magic,” vowing to bury his broken staff and drown his book of spells; it is nevertheless clear on which side of the equation his creator falls (and leaves open the question of whether this is Shakespeare himself, at the end of his career, speaking through his character).

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