Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

THE son of Sir Laurence Olivier is teaching `leadership techniques' through Shakespeare's plays, and believes that 'mythodrama' will be the next big thing in management training. It's only been around for two millennia.

The top jobs in the ancient world politics and the law - depended on what we call today `verbal communication skills', and the Romans developed the training in these skills to a very high degree. Practice makes perfect, and the budding orator was set to find the best means of arguing his case in three broad areas.

The exercise known as thesis concentrated on the great abstract philosophical issues of the time (or any time). Can we trust the evidence of sense-perception? Is 'right' the interest of the majority? How should captives be treated? Should virtue be taught for its own sake or for the advantages it brings? Should one prefer fame to riches? Why do experts differ?

In the controversia, the beginner debated an imaginary case on some disputable point of law: `The law ordains that, in the case of rape, the woman may demand either the death of her seducer or marriage without dowry. A certain man raped two women in one night: one demanded his death, the other marriage.' Sexual wrongs, disinheritance, capture by pirates, tyrannicide and the loss of limbs feature high in this melodramatic world. …

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