Shakespeare and life skills

I’m a great Shakespeare fan, so the recent anniversary of this death was been a great time for me. Re-watching some of the plays has reminded me that there are many instances in which Shakespeare’s characters offer great advice about how to live their lives. Two instances of this advice-giving spring to mind – both involve advice from a father to a departing son.

In Richard II, the King banishes Henry Bullingbrook (the future Henry IV) from England. As Henry contemplates a bleak future his father (John of Gaunt) encourages him not to be downcast, and to change his thoughts from negative to positive ones.

‘All places that the eye of heaven visits, are to a wise man ports and happy havens.’

(Act 1, scene 3, line 576 – for the full text see here.

As a coach, and in a similar way, I often use the techniques of asset-based thinking – these encourage you to focus on what you have got and what you can do rather than what you haven’t got and can’t do, and on what a person or situation can do for you rather than what they can’t. For more information, see my blog.

In Hamlet, Polonius offers Laertes (his son) advice about how he should conduct himself when he is away in France. The advice includes:

‘Give every man thy ear, but few they voice.’

(Act 1, scene 3, line 554 – for the full text see here.

This line has always resonated with me. Listening is (I think) an over-looked but crucial skill for the workplace as well as for life in general. For more on listening skills, see my blog.

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