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Shakespeare on Business

The works of Shakespeare are filled with adages, admonitions, and philosophies of life that focus the art of words onto the behavior of people.

Here are a few gems from interactions of people with business. See a play and enjoy the banter!

"To business that we love we rise betimes and go to 't with delight." Anthony and Cleopatra .... It's a lot easier to work when you enjoy what you do! spoken by Anthony to a soldier.

Cleopatra played by Elizabeth Taylor in 1963

"No profit grows where is no pleasure ta'en." The Taming of the Shrew ... where Tranio tells Lucentio to study subjects that he enjoys, arguing that nothing can be gained from unenthusing pursuits.

"For bounty, that makes gods, does still mar men. My dearest lord, bless'd, to be most accursed, rich, only to be wretched, thy great fortunes; are made thy chief afflictions." Timon of Athens ... where Flavious points out that bad things can happen to good people and money can't buy happiness.

"He that wants money, means, and content is without three good friends." As You Like It ... The shepherd Corin sums up his life philosophy to the the court Jester, Touchstone, saying that the three things you need are money, employment, and happiness.

Kenneth Branagh's film in 2006

"Strong reasons make strong actions." King John ... King John comments that a good, solid rationale - backed by data and experience - most often encourages the best outcomes, in business and in life. The best strategies, ideas, and plans are supported by powerful foundations of fact.

"And oftentimes excusing of a fault doth make the fault the worse by the excuse." King John ... Excuses are weak. When you mess up, own up. And then be energetic about making it right.

"We know what we are but know not what we may be." Hamlet ... Maintain an unshakable belief in yourself. Know that with hard work and perseverance, you can become more--even much more--than you are today.

"Brevity is the soul of wit." Hamlet ... Whether running a meeting or giving a speech, be a standout speaker by keeping it short, sweet, and striking. Enough said.

"Go wisely and slow. they stumble that run fast." Romeo and Juliet ... Friar Lawrence gives good advice, unheeded! There's everything to be said for being nimble and enthusiastic, but rushing for the sake of proclaiming agility is foolhardy. Be measured. The time spent thinking through all possible scenarios and consequences is well spent.

"Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing." Troilus and Cressida ... This is perhaps the most perfect summation of the entrepreneurial spirit - Conquering the mountain is sweet, but the real satisfaction comes from the amazing aha moments and being the creator of the results.

"I like not fair terms and a villain's mind." The Merchant of Venice ... Some deals really are too good to be true. If the person you are working with boasts of manipulating another or being manipulated, there's a good chance that you are about to fall into their web.

​​"How far that little candle throws his beams!" The Merchant of Venice ... When you're deep in the day-to-day details, it can be hard to remember how all the tasks and work set before you will add up to something bigger and better. Momentary frustration often robs us of the ability to believe in the big picture and keep going. This excellent expression of optimism reminds us that even small things have a mighty impact.

"How poor are they that have not patience? What wound did ever heal but by degrees?" Othello ... Patience is a virtue when played out by listening to all in order to gather knowledge before determining what must happen to get where you want to go. Think about the next step!


"It is a tale…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Macbeth ... We've all met business boors full of bluster and boast, offering very little substance to back up their assertions. Great ideas expressed without the effort to execute are talkers and dreamers, but not business partners!

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