Most of society knows Shakespeare as a writer and bard, a hopeless romantic and critic of his contemporaries. Apparently, he was also a grain hoarder and a tax evader.
Researchers at Aberystwyth University in Wales have sifted through documents upon documents and have discovered that the bard we all know and love was involved in some questionable practices during his time. In a paper the researchers will present at the Hay literary festival in Wales in May, they argue there is evidence to prove Shakespeare was a cunning and deceptive businessman who hoarded grain during a severe shortage, only to sell it at astronomical prices.
"Shakespeare the grain-hoarder has been redacted from history so that Shakespeare the creative genius could be born," the researchers argue in the paper.
Jane Archer, Howard Thomas and Richard Marggraf Turley found in their research that the playwright was pursued by authorities for tax evasion, too.
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"Over a 15-year period he purchased and stored grain, malt and barley for resale at inflated prices to his neighbors and local tradesmen," they wrote, adding that Shakespeare "pursued those who could not (or would not) pay him in full for these staples and used the profits to further his own money-lending activities."
The researchers, however, believe that his business practices weren’t an uncommon occurrence back then. Shakespeare’s time period is also known as the “Little Ice Age,” when people suffered from uncommonly cold weather and heavy rains that lead to poor harvests.
"Remembering Shakespeare as a man of hunger makes him much more human, much more understandable, much more complex," Archer said. “He would not have thought of himself first and foremost as a writer. Possibly as an actor – but first and foremost as a good father, a good husband and a good citizen to the people of Stratford."