Is The Handmaid's Tale based on a true story?

POPULAR drama The Handmaid’s Tale is back on our telly screens for a fourth season.

But is the show starring Elisabeth Moss based on a true story? Here's everything you need to know.

Is The Handmaid’s Tale based on a true story?

The Handmaid’s Tale is NOT based on a true story.

The drama is science fiction, set in a dystopian future where a totalitarian regime has overthrown the US government and created the Republic of Gilead.

But the show, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name, is inspired by religious and political history.

Which parts of The Handmaid’s Tale come from the Bible?

Two aspects of the show come from the Bible, one of which is the concept of using 'handmaids' to battle infertility.

In The Handmaid’s Tale, women are raped by high-ranking men and forced to have their children.

The children are then raised by the men and their wives.

The handmaids are trained at The Red Centre in the show, but it's known as The Rachel and Leah Centre in the book.

That's a reference to a story in the Old Testament, where Rachel 'offered' her handmaid Bilhah to her husband Jacob.

Bilhah gave birth to two sons in the story, both of whom were named after Rachel.

Additionally, the group that overthrew the US government in The Handmaid's Tale are known as the Sons of Jacob – another nod to the biblical tale.

The other references to the Bible in the show are the everyday greetings the handmaids use, such as 'blessed be the fruit' and 'may the Lord open'.

How did the Salem witch trials inspire the story?

Atwood has revealed the book was inspired by the Salem witch trials, a series of hearings in colonial Massachusetts during the 1690s.

During the trials, 19 people were executed by hanging after being found guilty of witchcraft – 14 of which were women.

The author has previously cited the story of Mary Webster as a particular influence.

After a church leader became ill in the town of Hadley, local residents believed his plight was the result of witchcraft and pinned the blame on Webster.

The woman was physically assaulted and hanged as punishment, just about surviving her ordeal.

Atwood has said: "The Handmaid's Tale is dedicated to Mary Webster because she is an example of a female person wrongly accused.

"But she is slightly a symbol of hope because they didn't actually manage to kill her. She made it through."

What was the American Plan?

The American Plan – also known as the Chamberlain-Kahn Act – was a controversial law passed in 1918, designed to combat the spread of venereal disease during the First World War.

The act gave the government power to detain any women suspected of having a sexually transmitted infection (STI), without proof or evidence.

Around 30,000 women were detained and examined during the war, despite prostitution and venereal disease remaining high around military camps.

What has Margaret Atwood said about her book and TV adaptation?

Speaking in 2018, Atwood admitted she had no control over the TV adaptation of her novel.

She said: "I think I would have to be awfully stupid to resent it because things could have been so much worse.

"They have done a tippity-top job… the acting is great, they’ve stuck to the central set of premises.

"It's a television series. If you’re going to have a series you can’t kill off the central character and you also can’t have the central character escape to safety in episode one of season two. It’s not going to happen.

"None of this was in any way under my control. Even if I had thrown a tantrum and said you can’t do this, that would have had no legal standing."

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