William Shakespeare – a playwright, hoarder, tax slacker and moneylender

Zeenews Bureau

London: What we have learnt about William Shakespeare is that he is one of the greatest playwrights the world has ever had. But there is one unknown or perhaps, a lesser known truth about him: he was a mean businessman who made a lot of money by hoarding grain during the time of famine.

A leading international daily writes that the researchers from Aberystwyth University in Wales assert, “We can`t fully understand Shakespeare unless we study his often-overlooked business savvy.”

A research paper to be delivered at the Hay literary festival in Wales in May quotes that Shakespeare’s money minded persona was deliberately subsided by historians to throw light on his “creative genius”.

Jayne Archer, a lecturer in medieval and Renaissance literature at Aberystwyth and her colleagues Howard Thomas and Richard Marggraf Turley referred historical archives to seek details of the bard’s side-by-side life as a grain dealer and property owner in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon whose trade practices were conflicting with those prescribed by the law.

Sources say that over a span of 15 years, Shakespeare purchased and stored essential edible items like grain, malt and barley only to be resold at higher prices to his neighbours and local traders. Sources added 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."

He was chased by the authorities for not paying his taxes, and in 1598 was prosecuted for hoarding grain during a time of famine.

This news would come as a shock to Shakespeare’s fans though. But the other fact is that Shakespeare lived and wrote a lot of his plays in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, during a period known as the ‘Little Ice Age’, when a cold wave hit the UK, resulting in poor harvests and famine. Therefore, a lot of his plays reflected this harsh reality, for instance ‘Coriolanus’.

Archer argues that “hoarding grain was his way of ensuring that his family and neighbours would not go hungry if a harvest failed.”

The lecturer also states that Shakespeare’s original monument, erected after his death in 1616, showed him holding a sack of grain. In the 18th century, it was replaced with a more "writer-like" memorial depicting Shakespeare with a tasselled cushion and a quill.