Most power brokers won’t blab about where they get the inside dope on allies and adversaries. But Ken and Carol Adelman—he’s a Defense Department policy adviser, she’s a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute think tank—readily identify their most reliable source. “Shakespeare,” says Ken, “had the keenest insight into what makes people tick.” The Adelmans, both 55, have long looked to the Bard as an aid in navigating the labyrinths of politics, business and family life (they have two grown daughters). And since 1998 they have offered his wisdom to CEOs and bigwigs-to-be through their company Movers & Shakespeares.
Their workshops—which last from 90 minutes to several days and cost from $4,000 to $18,000—are taught at such institutions as Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. The idea: to use the playwright’s words to teach managerial skills. To motivate her troops, a boss can draw inspiration from the battlefield speech in Henry V (“We happy few, we band of brothers”). To silence a verbose underling, she might quote King Lear: “Have more than thou showest. Speak less than thou knowest.”
Each workshop ends with students donning Elizabethan garb to act out what they’ve learned. “I’ve gotten more VIPs into tights and codpieces than anyone in this country,” says Carol. Bill Clinton’s former press secretary George Stephanopoulos donned a cape at a 1999 session and bemoaned his fate in the words of Lear‘s jester: “They’ll have me whipped for speaking true. Thou’lt have me whipped for lying; and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace!”
Though holding one’s peace may not ward off a whipping, the Adelmans counsel that it is often the wisest course. Or, as Will himself put it: “The better part of valor is discretion.”