Study: Shakespeare Was a ‘Ruthless’ Businessman, Hoarded Food

New research suggests the playwright illegally hoarded grain during a time of famine and repeatedly evaded tax.

  • Share
  • Read Later
Hulton Archive / Getty Images

William Shakespeare

The great playwright William Shakespeare had a dark side, new research suggests. According to academics from the Aberystwyth University in Wales, the brilliant bard illegally hoarded grain during a time of famine and repeatedly evaded tax, the Associated Press reported.

Jayne Archer, a lecturer in medieval and Renaissance literature at Aberystwyth, and her colleagues say court and tax records suggest Shakespeare was repeatedly prosecuted and fined for doing “all he could to avoid taxes, maximise profits at others’ expense and exploit the vulnerable,” reported the Sunday Times.

(More: Shakespeare: Staging the World)

In a paper to be delivered at the Hay literary festival in Wales in May, they argue that modern readers are out of touch with the harsh realities of Shakespeare’s time. Archer said that the creative genius had to resort to illegal activities during a time of extreme food shortages in the 17th century to provide for his two surviving daughters because there was “no sense that his play could generate future income,” writes the Daily Mail.

Archer told the AP that the research could shed new light on Shakespeare’s ‘Coriolanus.’ The play was written in 1607, around the time of a peasant riot in the English Midlands, and it focuses on how merchants and politicians exploited food shortages.

Shakespeare retired in 1613 as the largest property owner in his hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon, noted the Telegraph.

(More: Did Shakespeare Have a Co-Writer?)

8 comments
MarkWithycombe
MarkWithycombe

Christopher Marlowe! It is obvious. Shakespeare was like a publisher for Marlowe. Hardly a mystery. 

HowardSchumann
HowardSchumann

This information has been known to the world for hundreds of years. Why does it take a lecturer from Aberystwyth to now get it some notice in the press? Is it because the world is beginning to catch on to the great genius from Stratford hoax?

brucecota
brucecota

I"ll bet the real playwright(s) worked for William Shakespeare the businessman.  He owned the theater at which the plays were performed.  He probably had a staff.

ChristopherFelizarta
ChristopherFelizarta

This is William Shakespeare the businessman not the Playwright. The "Real" writer of the immortal plays and sonnets is still unknown. he just used the pen name William Shakespeare and people in his time thought it's the famous William Shakespeare the grain trader they knew. So all of the Great Plays, Sonnets, etc. were all associated to William Shakespeare the businessman up until this day.

aelric75
aelric75

@ChristopherFelizarta You do realize that there is no evidence whatsoever that Shakespeare of Stratford did not write the plays credited to him?  The only argument against his authorship is the claim that his education was too limited for the scope and quality of his writing, but Shakespeare's grammar school education was quite good for his day, and there is certainly nothing in his plays that cannot be attributed to genius and his connections to  thecourt and the aristocracy.  Lastly, Shakespeare's own contemporaries believed he was the author of his plays.  Challenges to his authorship did not appear until much later, and therefore have no backing from any firsthand or contemporary source. 

ChristopherFelizarta
ChristopherFelizarta

@aelric75There's no way a full time businessman like Shakespeare of  Statford-upon-avon could write the greatest plays of all time like Shakespeare of London. Businessman at this time workd 24 hours a day, workd all by himself (remember there was no franchising yet) and travel from place to place on foot, by horse, by a boat to buy and sell goods He did all by himslef. So, the businessman Shakespeare of  Statford-upon-avon spent most of his time and energy on his business. With no proper education and time to study playwriting There's no way he can write the greatest plays, sonnets of all time! like Shakespeare of London.  By the way, there's a guy named Mark Twain who lived in Mississippi he must be Mark Twain the writer of  Huckleberry Finn?