Study claims William Shakespeare was a tax dodger

A new study has presented the bard in a rather unflattering light. According to the study, William Shakespeare was hauled before the courts and threatened with prison for tax dodging. Also he was fined for hoarding food at a time when Europe faced famine.

The researchers add, he hoarded grain and sold it to the poor at inflated prices.

Thanks to his business deals, Shakespeare became one of Warwickshire's largest landowners, according to research by Aberystwyth University.

The report said, ''Over a 15-year period, Shakespeare purchased and stored grain, malt and barley for resale at inflated prices to neighbours and local tradesmen.

''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.''

The study sheds light on a lesser known truth about Shakespeare - he was a mean businessman who made a lot of money by hoarding grain during the time of famine.

 ''We can`t fully understand Shakespeare unless we study his often-overlooked business savvy,'' the paper said.

According to the research paper to be delivered at the Hay literary festival in Wales in May, Shakespeare's money-minded persona had been deliberately played down by historians to throw light on his ''creative genius''.

Jayne Archer,  lecturer in medieval and Renaissance literature at Aberystwyth and her colleagues Howard Thomas and Richard Marggraf Turley studied historical archives which revealed the bard's side-by-side life as a grain dealer and property owner in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon

The news would come as a shock to Shakespeare's fans, however, 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. Many of his plays reflected this harsh reality, for instance 'Coriolanus'.

According to Archer, ''hoarding grain was his way of ensuring that his family and neighbours would not go hungry if a harvest failed.''