Shakespeare’s economic legacy for the UK

In the age of Brexit we often underestimate the UK’s economic advantage given to the current economy by our cultural heritage.

In the age of Brexit we often underestimate the UK's economic advantage given to the current economy by our cultural heritage.Below and over the next blog post Business Win reviews the extra business that William Shakespeare generates to the UK’s ecomony.

William Shakespeare may be widely regarded as finest playwright in the English language, but when he put his quill down he was also a savvy businessman.

In Elizabethan London, the original Globe Theatre could accommodate 3,000 people. Commoners or “groundlings” paid a penny to stand in the open air, while the gentry parted with as many as six pennies to sit on cushions in the covered galleries.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Globe burned down in 1613, Shakespeare’s share in the playhouse made him a tidy fortune.

He also part owned another London theatre and a production company. And back in his hometown of Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire, he invested widely in land and property, and reportedly bought and sold grain.

By the time Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616 – 400 years ago – he was a very wealthy man. In today’s money he would have comfortably been a millionaire.

Fast forward four centuries, and Shakespeare would likely be rather pleased that his work and legacy continues to support a large and lucrative industry, which is far from being limited to the sale of theatre tickets and employment of actors.

Instead, Shakespeare supports a substantially wider business community – from hotels and restaurants in Stratford, to walking tours in London, bars near a balcony in the Italian city of Verona, sales of books and memorabilia, and even leadership classes for businessmen and women.

Piers Ibbotson says there are so many lessons from Shakespeare about the perils and pitfalls of power that it has provided him with an inexhaustible fund of material for his management and leadership workshops over the past two decades.

“The plays of Shakespeare are case studies for central human dilemmas,” says the 61-year-old, who is part of Warwick Business School’s Create unit.

“The plays are so rich, and so complex, that there are actual situations to examine. Acting things out is very powerful, people can physically get inside situations.”

Create uses Shakespeare’s plays to guide students, and business clients, through numerous difficult business situations.

Macbeth, for example, is viewed as a study into the limits of ambition, while The Tempest is seen as a metaphor for a perfect storm of workplace rivalry.

Meanwhile, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is used to explore business transformation, and the Merchant of Venice teaches contract enforcement.

Mr Ibbotson says: “Shakespeare is such a wonderful asset and of course you’re always using such powerful language – it allows people to articulate much more subtle and complex ideas than thin business language.”

Richard Olivier, 54, is another person who uses Shakespeare’s plays to teach good leadership and business practice. The son of Sir Laurence Olivier, the UK’s most famous 20th Century Shakespearian actor, Mr Olivier says: “Shakespeare is an amazing ethical teacher. Apart from the history plays, there is no play where the bad guy ends up in charge at the end.”

Clients of Mr Olivier’s company Olivier Mythodrama have included NHS management, the Metropolitan Police and Daimler-Benz. His charges range from £5,000 for a half-day session to as much as £40,000 for a six-day intensive course.

Mr Olivier adds: “There’s huge drama in leadership, and Shakespeare was probably the first playwright to portray the human drama of leadership in three dimensional form.”

September 20, 2016  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: Business Communications, Business Development, Business Win, Global Business, Uncategorized, Winning Business

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