Researchers from the very Potterian-sounding Aberystwyth University have discovered that William Shakespeare was a tax-evading grain hoarder. According to Dr. Jayne Archer and Professors Richard Marggraf Turley and Howard Thomas, Shakespeare made a lot of his money by buying up large amounts of grain, malt, and barley to store, later selling it for inflated prices when his fellow countrymen were struggling. They believe the playwright did this for 15 years and faced fines for illegal hoarding, as well as being threatened with jail time for failing to pay his taxes.
Interestingly enough, one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Coriolanus, deals with grain-hoarding rather extensively. Written during a British peasant revolt in 1607, the play is set during a Roman famine and features plebeians challenging patricians for the right to set their own grain prices. As Archer told London’s The Sunday Times, the study’s discoveries show “another side to Shakespeare besides the brilliant playwright—as a ruthless businessman who did all he could to avoid taxes, maximize profits at others’ expense, and exploit the vulnerable—while also writing plays about their plight to entertain them.”
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