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.

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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?)