Negotiating techniques in Shakespeare

henry vIP Draughts and the Draughtatrix have just returned from a visit to Stratford Upon Avon, to see a production of Henry V.

It was well worth seeing even if, like IP Draughts, you don’t find Shakespeare’s history plays as engaging as some of the tragedies and comedies.

IP Draughts was pleased to hear a greater focus on articulating the meaning of the words than in some other productions that he has seen at Stratford. The excellent Oliver Ford Davies, as the Chorus, was particularly good at communicating his lines.

Olver Ford Davies in an earlier role as a Queen's Counsel

Oliver Ford Davies in an earlier role as a Queen’s Counsel

Just as IP Draughts’ attention was flagging, part-way through the second half, Shakespeare has the representatives of England and France enter into negotiations for a merger of the French and English thrones. As part of this corporate transaction, Henry V acquires the French king’s daughter in marriage. (Like many M&A deals that are fuelled by personal ambition and ego, this turns out to be an unworkable vanity project, and is reversed a generation later.)

Shakespeare reminds us of some core elements of successful negotiations:

1. Read the documents carefully and discuss their meaning.

King of France: I have but with a cursorary eye
O’erglanced the articles: pleaseth your grace
To appoint some of your council presently
To sit with us once more, with better heed
To re-survey them…

2. Assemble a good negotiating team, give them clear instructions and authority to negotiate; leave the CEO out of the detailed negotiations.

King Henry V: Go, uncle Exeter,
And brother Clarence, and you, brother Gloucester,
Warwick and Huntingdon, go with the king;
And take with you free power to ratify,
Augment, or alter, as your wisdoms best
Shall see advantageable for our dignity,
Any thing in or out of our demands,
And we’ll consign thereto.

3. Involve people who can mediate solutions.

Queen Isabel: Our gracious brother, I will go with them:
Haply a woman’s voice may do some good,
When articles too nicely urged be stood on.

4. Don’t concede too early.

French King: We have consented to all terms of reason.

Exeter: Only he hath not yet subscribed this:
Where your majesty demands, that the King of France,
having any occasion to write for matter of grant,
shall name your highness in this form and with this
addition in French, Notre trescher fils Henri, Roi
d’Angleterre, Heritier de France…

5. Don’t claim it is a deal-breaker if it isn’t. Secure something of benefit in return for an unattractive concession.

French King: Nor this I have not, brother, so denied,
But your request shall make me let it pass.

King Henry V: I pray you then, in love and dear alliance,
Let that one article rank with the rest;
And thereupon give me your daughter.

French King: Take her, fair son, and from her blood raise up
Issue to me; that the contending kingdoms
Of France and England, whose very shores look pale
With envy of each other’s happiness,
May cease their hatred, and this dear conjunction
Plant neighbourhood and Christian-like accord
In their sweet bosoms, that never war advance
His bleeding sword ‘twixt England and fair France.

The last lines of the French King, above, could be used for the press release.

When this French King, Charles VI, died in 1422, King Henry V’s son (Henry VI of England) did reign as King of France for 7 years. But then there was a hostile takeover by some French investors who installed Charles VII. Eventually, a white knight in the form of Joan of Arc helped Charles VII to complete the demerger of France and England.


Filed under Commercial negotiation

4 responses to “Negotiating techniques in Shakespeare

  1. Thanks for this reminder, Mark, that good negotiating techniques never die. Neither do Franco-English rivalries, it seems! I am reminded of the popular “Invade and Conquer France Society” at my college in Oxford during the 1980s … Cheers, Tamsin.

  2. Bell Jean

    Dear Mark

    I’ve been meaning to introduce myself for a while. I came across your blog a couple of years ago and I always enjoy it, but you’ve really excelled this time. I’m still laughing!

    I met Kevin Mann earlier this year (our kids go to the same school) and he was singing your praises.

    I’ll look you up on Linked In and send you an invite if I may. It would be nice if our paths crossed one day.

    Best wishes Jean

    Jean Hughes/Jean Bell 07540 789 925

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