One of the most curious and so most notable objects in last year's British Museum exhibition Shakespeare: staging the world was The Robben Island Bible, the hidden copy of the Alexander edition of the Complete Works which was passed around and inspired the inmates of the prison where Nelson Mandela and his ANC colleagues were held captive. Throughout, the prisoners left their mark or signature on significant quotes or sections of the plays and in this exploration of the implications the book had for the prisoners, David Schalkwyk suggests that although their connection to the text can sometimes be overstated, its implications as an overall symbol of disobedience cannot. The main thrust of the book compares the prisoner's experience to Hamlet, comparing quotations and memoir of inmates, Denmark being an emotional prison, with the young prince's speeches, a character's individual experience expressing a collective reality.
Hamlet's Dreams by David Schalkwyk is published by Bloomsbury and is out now. RRP: £14.99. ISBN: 978-1441129284. Review copy supplied.