Nelson Mandela and Shakespeare

From around the world the main news this morning, is of the death of Nelson Mandela. I was privileged, in 2005, to meet Sonny Venkatrathnam who had been imprisoned with Mandela on Robben Island, and to examine the Robben Island Shakespeare at close quarters. I believe the Complete Works Exhibition in Stratford-upon-Avon was the first occasion on which the book had left South Africa, though it has since become something of an international star itself, globe-trotting to London in 2012 and to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC in 2013.

The impact of this remarkable book has been extraordinary and I’ve been interested to see how many people have, over the past 12 hours, quoted the lines from Julius Caesar highlighted by Mandela in it.
Cowards die many times before their deaths:
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men
Should fear…
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.

Still in the possession of Sonny Venkatrathnam, its original owner, it surely deserves to be one of South Africa’s national treasures.

If you would like to follow them, these links lead to two of my posts about the book.
Shakespeare and our restless world
Julius Caesar, Shakespeare’s African play


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