Cowards die many times before their deaths:
The valiant never taste of death but once.


Nelson Mandela signed his name next to this passage from Julius Caesar in a copy of Shakespeare’s Complete Works on December 16, 1977.

Mandela served eighteen years of his time as a political prisoner at Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. Thirty-three of Mandela’s fellow prisoners also signed their names next to passages in the Robben Island Shakespeare, documenting some small part of their experience through their shared knowledge of Shakespeare.

Accompanying the Robben Island Shakespeare—which is on exhibit for the first time in the United States—is a series of sketches Mandela made in the early 2000s, reflecting on his prison life.


This exhibition is sponsored in part by
Maxine Isaacs

with additional support from
The Winton and Carolyn Blount Exhibition Fund of the Folger Shakespeare Library
Mary Zients

Lenders include
Louis and Bonnie Cohen
Sonny Venkatrathnam