Shakespeare evaded taxes,stocked food illegally,says research

Bad Bard: Academics say the poet was a ruthless businessman who grew wealthy dealing in grain during a time of famine

Written by Associated Press | London | Published: April 1, 2013 1:03:20 am

Hoarder,moneylender,tax dodger — it’s not how we usually think of William Shakespeare.

But we should,according to a group of academics who say the Bard was a ruthless businessman who grew wealthy dealing in grain during a time of famine. Researchers from Aberystwyth University in Wales argue that we can’t fully understand Shakespeare unless we study his often-overlooked business savvy.

Their research also claims that the famous English poet and playwright was repeatedly dragged to several courts and fined for illegally hoarding food during times of shortage,and even threatened with jail for evading his taxes.

“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 department at Aberystwyth University.

She and her colleagues — Richard Marggraf Turley and Howard Thomas — studied 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 to the court 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 and local tradesmen,” they said.

“In February 1598 he was prosecuted for holding 80 bushels of malt or corn during a time of shortage. He pursued those who could not pay him in full for these staples and used the profits to further his own money-lending activities,” 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- upon-Avon. His profits — minus a few fines for illegal hoarding and tax evasion — meant he had a working life of just 24 years,” the group of Aberystwyth University academics said.

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