Shaking up business with the Bard: Event preview

  • March 20, 2018
  • By Kurt Greenbaum
  • 2 minute read

Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be.

—Ophelia in Act IV, Scene 5 of Shakespeare's Hamlet

At Olin Business School, where students learn a “values-based, data-driven” approach to business leadership, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and King John offer support from across half a millennia: “Strong reasons make strong actions,” says Lewis, heir to the French throne, in King John. And Polonius reminds his son in Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true.”

So it’s not a stretch to find Olin hosting its second annual “Shakespeare at Olin” event on April 15. The afternoon event will bring together jugglers, magicians, and musicians evoking the Renaissance era—along with performances of the Bard’s works by community players and a reappearance of The Dean’s Players.

Doors open that day at 2:30 p.m. and performances commence as Olin Dean Mark Taylor leads a troupe of actors from the school in a scene from King Lear. The festivities continue with a performance by WashU’s a cappella group The Ghost Lights and a 50-minute retelling of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare Festival St. Louis.

The program also includes a special announcement about a new initiative for Olin Business School—shhhhh! It’s still a secret!—and, of course, plenty of food.

Taylor has often made the case that classical literature, and the Bard in particular, are replete with lessons in business. “Henry V’s Agincourt speech is truly inspirational,” he has said. And in Olin Business magazine: “Literature helps you reflect on organizational behavior and business behavior,” said the man who earned his master’s thesis in English Renaissance and romantic literature with a thesis on King John.

A quick web search of “Shakespeare and business” illustrates the ongoing fascination business leaders and scholars have with the connection, often highlighting quotes that reinforce common business maxims: Run a tight meeting. Think before you speak. Consider your options carefully before acting.

Richard Olivier, son of famous Shakespearean actor Sir Laurence Olivier, uses the Bard’s works to teach good leadership and business practice, according to a 2016 story by the BBC.

“Shakespeare is an amazing ethical teacher,” Olivier told the BBC’s website. “Apart from the history plays, there is no play where the bad guy ends up in charge at the end.”

Shakespeare Picture Key

Shakespeare at Olin Poster Key

1) Bottom, A Midsummer’s Night Dream
2) Titania, A Midsummer’s Night Dream
3) Juliet, Romeo & Juliet
4) Romeo, Romeo & Juliet
5) Ophelia, Hamlet
6) Mistress Ford, The Merry Wives of Windsor
7) Falstaff, The Merry Wives of Windsor
8) Mistress Page, The Merry Wives of Windsor
9) Cleopatra, Antony and Cleopatra
10) Antony, Antony and Cleopatra
11) The Weird/Wayward Sisters, Macbeth
12) Hamlet, Hamlet
13) Valentine, Two Gentlemen of Verona
14) Touchstone, As You Like It
15) Puck, A Midsummer’s Night Dream
16) Lady Macbeth, Macbeth
17) Macbeth, Macbeth
18) Cassius, Julius Caesar
19) Caesar, Julius Caesar
20) Iago, Othello
21) Othello, Othello
22) Benedick, Much Ado about Nothing
23) Petruchio, The Taming of the Shrew
24) Kate, The Taming of the Shrew
25) Henry V, Henry V
26) King Lear, King Lear
27) King Richard, Richard III
28) Rosalind, As You Like It

About the Author

Kurt Greenbaum

Kurt Greenbaum

As communications director for WashU Olin Business School, my job is to find and share great stories about our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. I've worked for the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management as communications director and as a journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sun-Sentinel in South Florida and the Chicago Tribune.

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