He may be regarded as one of the finest exponents of the English language, but there was a darker side to William Shakespeare, according to new research.
He was a tax dodger and was threatened with jail for hoarding crops during a severe shortage, according to academics at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales.
He was also accused of profiteering by selling hoarded food to neighbors at inflated prices during crop failures.
Lead researcher Dr. Jane Archer said that for a 15-year period Shakespeare bought and hoarded grain, malt and barley, and sold them for inflated profits during times of shortage.
The research found 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.”
Dr Archer said food shortages were a regular aspect of Shakespeare’s times and that was reflected in his work. She cited passages from Coriolanus, written at the height of English food riots in 1607, and features a famine exploited by rich food merchants and politicians.
And in King Lear the role of crop growing and food supplies were central to the politics of the play, she added.
The new findings are to be presented at a major UK literary festival in May.