Bad Bard! William Shakespeare was repeatedly dragged before the courts and fined for illegally hoarding food during times of shortage, and even threatened with jail for evading his taxes, a new study on the famous English playwright has claimed.
“There was another side to Shakespeare besides the brilliant playwright, as a ruthless businessman who did all he could to avoid taxes, maximise profits at others’ expense and exploit the vulnerable, while also writing plays about their plight to entertain them,” said Jayne Archer, a researcher in Renaissance literature at Aberystwyth University.
She worked with Richard Marggraf Turley, a professor in the department, and Howard Thomas, a professor of plant science, to study the Bard of Avon’s ‘other’ life as a businessman and owner of arable farmland and pasture at a time when Europe was suffering famines, The Sunday Times reported.
The team found documents in the court and tax archives showing he was repeatedly dragged before the courts and fined for illegally stockpiling food and was threatened with jail for evading tax payments.
“Over a 15-year period Shakespeare purchased and stored grain, malt and barley for resale at inflated prices to neighbours,” they said.
“By combining both illegal and legal activities, Shakespeare was able to retire in 1613 as the largest property owner in his home town, Stratford,” the researchers added.