The word from the UK is that Shakespeare was a tax cheat, hoarder of grain, and ruthless in his business dealings. According to a new paper due out soon, from Jayne Archer, Howard Thomas, and Richard Turley at Aberystwyth University, “Over a 15-year period he purchased and stored grain, malt and barley for resale at inflated prices to his neighbours and local tradesmen,… [and he] 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.”
Now it’s not a surprise that a genius can be an unpleasant fellow, think Richard Wagner, for example. But I can’t help think that this will add fuel to the fire of the authorship question. After all, during this time, Shakespeare is also supposedly acting full time, writing plays like mad, and helping manage the Globe Theatre. It’s especially telling that the monument to him erected in Stratford-upon-Avon depicted him not as a writer, but a guy holding a sack of grain.
Of course, it’s also possible that he didn’t sell his grain or pay taxes on time because he was too busy writing and acting…though it does appear he wasn’t too busy to sue the people who owed him money. It will be interesting to see what details are in the full paper once it’s published.