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William Shakespeare, Management Guru

August 19, 2014

Who has not read anything by William Shakespeare, has not yet learned to read.  His plays and other pieces of work are ageless.  They were written to primarily entertain and be the source of his living; but the ingeniousness of his works make much of what he wrote into mini-text books for students of management and business.

My favorite is the advice and blessing Polonius gives to his son Laertes before he goes on a trip [In Hamlet]:

And these few precepts in thy memory.

Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,

Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.

Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.

The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

Grapple them to thy soul with hooks of steel;

But do not dull thy palm with entertainment

Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade.  Beware

Of entrance to a quarrel: but, being in,

Bear it that the opposer may beware of thee.

Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice:

Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,

But not express’d in fancy: rich, not gaudy:

For the apparel oft proclaims the man;

And they in France, of the best rank and station,

Are most select and generous, chief in that.

Neither a borrower, nor a lender be:

For loan oft loses both itself and friend;

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

This above all, – To thine ownself be true;

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.


Following are gleanings from his great works:

  • Small things make base men proud.
  • Having nothing, nothing can he lose.
  • Every why hath a wherefore.
  • What you cannot as you would achieve, You must perforce accomplish as you may.
  • An honest tale speeds best being plainly told.
  • No profit grows where is no pleasure taken; In brief, sir, study what you most affect.
  • There’s small choice in rotten apples.
  • Tempt not a desperate man.
  • The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
  • I like not fair terms and a villain’s mind.
  • Who riseth from a feast with that keen appetite that he sits down?
  • The better part of valor is discretion.
  • There is a history in all men’s lives.
  • All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.
  • The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
  • Let me have men about me that are fat ; Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o’nights : Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look ; He thinks too much : Such men are dangerous.
  • The evil that men do lives after them.  The good is oft interred with their bones.
  • Words pay no debts.
  • To fear the worst oft cures the worse.
  • Good counselors lack no clients.
  • We cannot all be masters.
  • To mourn a mischief that is past and gone, is the next way to draw new mischief on.
  • I swear, ‘tis better to be much abus’d, than but to know’t a little.
  • Nothing can come of nothing.
  • Mend your speech a little, lest  it may mar your fortunes.
  • Come what come may, Time and the hour runs through the roughest day.
  • Things without all remedy should be without regard: what’s done is done.
  • I have not kept my square; but that to come shall all be done by the rule.
  • The silence of pure innocence persuades when speaking fails.
  • Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.
  • Press not a falling man too far.
  • Reputation, reputation, reputation!  O, I have lost my reputation!  I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.
One Comment leave one →
  1. 6hawthorne permalink
    August 19, 2014 2:42 pm


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