The greatest playwright was more like his character Shylock. A new study on William Shakespeare says that "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,"
Jayne Archer, a researcher in Renaissance literature at Aberystwyth University with Richard Marggraf Turley, a professor in the department, and Howard Thomas, a professor of plant science write about the playwright as a person of the age.
Archer said the idea of Shakespeare as a hardheaded businessman may not fit with romantic notions of the sensitive artist, but we shouldn't judge him too harshly. "Remembering Shakespeare as a man of hunger makes him much more human, much more understandable, much more complex," she felt.
"He would not have thought of himself first and foremost as a writer. Possibly as an actor - but first and foremost as a good father, a good husband and a good citizen to the people of Stratford."
The researchers found documents in the court and tax archives showing he was repeatedly dragged before the courts and fined for illegally stockpiling food and was threatened with jail for evading tax payments.
"Over a 15-year period he purchased and stored grain, malt and barley for resale at inflated prices to his neighbors and local tradesmen." Shakespeare also "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."
He was also pursued by the authorities for tax evasion.
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.
"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 researchers added.
The research paper is due to be delivered at the Hay literary festival in Wales in May.