Four hundred years ago tomorrow, one of the most influential writers in history died. Although William Shakespeare bid farewell to the world on April 23, 1616, the world has never said goodbye to his works. His plays and poems are as relevant and entertaining today as they were during his lifetime.

In honor of this significant anniversary, people and organizations around the world are hosting celebrations of Shakespeare’s life and works. Theater companies, libraries and other cultural institutions are putting on plays, readings and other events. In Hillard Heintze’s hometown, Chicago, there is an entire website dedicated to the occasion, advertising more than 850 different events over the next year in Chicago alone.

Part of Shakespeare’s appeal to audiences is his ability to produce entertaining plays that capture the essence of the human experience. At the same time, Shakespeare never took his work too seriously and always had room for comedic effect, which is especially appreciated by a groundling like myself.

Shakespeare’s Lessons on Risk Mitigation

As someone in the corporate investigations world, I can’t help but see connections between some of Shakespeare’s greatest characters and the investigative services Hillard Heintze provides. While it might not make for good theater, many of the heroes from Shakespeare’s plays would have been better off figuring out how to mitigate their risks than letting the drama unfold the way they did. Key executives in the boardroom today should be aware of tools at their disposal that Shakespeare’s protagonists just didn’t know about. For instance:

  • Hamlet was clearly in need of a threat assessment of his uncle Claudius. If he had access to Hillard Heintze’s services, we might have helped verify that the warning he received from his father’s ghost was legitimate. We would likely confirm that something was definitely “rotten in the state of Denmark,” and it was his uncle’s plot to kill him.  
  • Henry V could have used some market entry research when he left England to take on the French. We could have helped him realize just how outnumbered he was and where to avoid those muddy French fields. However, Henry’s use of discreet interviews the night before the Battle of Agincourt was right out of our playbook.
  • The high-net worth Capulets and Montagues from Romeo and Juliet clearly would have benefited from a social media monitoring program. If they’d had one in place, they would likely have seen an escalation of tensions between the families after Romeo snuck into the Capulets’ ball and the resulting duel and bloodshed. They also might have seen that Juliet updated her relationship status once she started dating Romeo, and that, as Friar Laurence had hoped, their marriage would bring peace to the conflict.
  • Antonio, from The Merchant of Venice, clearly should have conducted a pre-transaction due diligence investigation before entering into a business deal with Shylock. If he had, he would have learned that the lender was going through some serious family problems and lost nearly half his wealth when his daughter ran away.
  • Before making that executive hire, the Duke of Orsino from Twelfth Night would have been advised not to skimp on his due diligence background investigation of Cesario. If he had done a deeper dive, he likely would have discovered that some sort of identity theft had taken place, with Cesario seemingly showing up out of the blue with no credentials. 

Save the Drama for the Stage

While these pre-emptive steps may not make for good entertainment, they could save you from the same type of drama that has played out on Shakespeare’s stages for more than 400 years. When key executives strategize about their next acquisition or key hire, or assess a major threat against the company, they should make sure to keep in mind these important lessons from Shakespeare. Sometimes you need to dig a little deeper to find the truth. Or, in the words of Shakespeare himself:

“All that glitters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.”


Pre-transaction due diligence: is a Google search enough?