Centre for Continuing Education

HSC English Advanced Preparation Course - Module A: 'The Tempest' and 'Hag-Seed'

HSC English. The smart way to prepare for your HSC.

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This HSC Preparation course is designed for students completing the English Advanced Module A: Textual Conversations. As part of your HSC preparation this new two-day course will enable you to gain an in-depth focus on the pair of texts: William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1611) and Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed (2016) as a re-imagining of The Tempest.

As part of a small class, students will be guided through the requirements of the English Advanced Syllabus and Prescriptions, as well as forming an understanding of context, form, narrative and connections.

Through analysis and discussion of The Tempest, participants explore its hybrid form; the multiple narrative threads; the contradictory and ambiguous key characters; Prospero and Caliban; and the ambiguous significance of Caliban as dark monster (‘hag-seed’), oppressed subject and poetic voice.

Following exploration of Hag-Seed as a reimagining of The Tempest, be guided by experienced teachers to discuss and consider the title; the revisionary parallels between Tony and Prospero (including the daughter motif); Anne-Marie and gender issues; the prisoners and class identity; the substitution of the prison and the prisoners and their performance of The Tempest for Shakespeare’s island.

By engaging in the comparative study of the texts, students will explore the essential grandeur of Shakespeare’s play as a culmination of his career: the range of his poetry; his ambivalence about human error and the magnificence of the world; the identity and status of the clown/villains and Caliban. By drawing on comparisons, students will understand the significance of Hag-Seed through its double nature as a contemporary novel and metatextual literary game; Prospero and mental illness; the English class and prison systems; gender stereotypes and revisions; Atwood’s prisoners compared to Shakespeare’s Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • analyse and discuss the relations between The Tempest and Hag-Seed in relation to context, narrative, structure, themes, literary style, key words and motifs
  • analyse and discuss The Tempest as a culmination of Shakespeare’s art and interests: in particular, as a hybrid text (poetic drama, romance, revenge tragicomedy, fairyland masque); the twin significance of Prospero as magician master and Caliban as monster slave; romance and revenge; Miranda and Ariel; the emphasis on human error and reconciliation
  • analyse and discuss Hag-Seed as a contemporary novel and a metatextual literary game about The Tempest including the significance of the title; Felix, Prospero and revenge; the Miranda variations; the substitution of the prison for the island; variations on gender stereotypes including sex and romance; the contemporary English class system and class identity; the conflation of the prison and performance that contributes to a theatrical novel
  • analyse and discuss the relations between The Tempest and Hag-Seed to explore how The Tempest illuminates Hag-Seed and how Hag-Seed raises questions about The Tempest.


  • Critical study of The Tempest in relation to context, style and meaning in order to explore its hybrid form; the themes about human error and the magnificence of the world and art; princes and the people; romance, sex and gender in the period; Prospero and Caliban – with emphasis on the double nature of Caliban as dark monster and speaker for the beauty of the magical island.
  • An overview and analysis of Hag-Seed in relation to context, style and meaning in order to explore its hybrid form as contemporary novel and metatextual literary game about The Tempest. The focus includes the identity of Felix and parallels to Prospero; the title and its significance; Atwood’s account of the prison, the prisoners and the variations on Caliban; Miranda and the feminist variations with Anne-Marie; male gender stereotypes; the performance of The Tempest and the prisoners' variations on Shakespeare that contribute to a theatrical novel.
  • Extended analysis and discussion that focuses relations between the two texts including discussion of the medium of the novel and the theatre and style, characters and themes. The comparison will focus the variations on Prospero, Miranda, Ariel and Caliban, with emphasis on the prisoners, their performance and Shakespeare’s Caliban and his significance in relation to the variations on Caliban linked to Atwood’s title. Group discussion will explore other related issues including class and gender, art and educated intellectual entertainment.

Intended audience

Students completing HSC English Module A: Textual Conversations for set pair of texts: William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed.

Delivery style

Lecture and workshop style, including group discussions for interactive exploration of the texts and informed personal student responses.


You will be provided with a course booklet (electronic copy).

Bring your own device

You are required to bring your own device (Windows or Mac) and a power chord. Please ensure your device is fully charged as access to power is limited.

Please note that University does not carry any responsibility for your lost, stolen, or damaged devices whilst on the University premises.


NESA English Advanced Stage 6 Syllabus (2017)
EA 12-1, EA-12-2, EA 12-3, EA 12-4, EA 12-5, EA 12-6, EA 12-7, EA 12-8

Getting Through Your HSC: A Practical Guide

While you progress through this journey and also the conclusion of your schooling life, we know you’ll have a lot on your mind – exams, future study, careers – but remember, while keeping focused on these bigger goals and aspirations, it’s also important not to forget your own health and well-being.

For tips on staying motivated and keeping focused, dealing with anxiety, keeping healthy, relaxation, pre-study exercise and more, read our article Getting Through Your HSC: A Practical Guide.


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