Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Naughty Shakespeare!

Pardon the Bard

We all know that William Shakespeare is perhaps the most famous poet and playwright of all time (we may even be able to recite a line or two if the mood doth take us....... ) but a recent study at a University not far from the Oakeley Arms has revealed lots of things we might not have known about Britain's favourite bard.

Historians and academics at Aberystwyth University have discovered that not only was Shakespeare once almost jailed for tax eviction, but that he was also one of the time's greatest hoarders of food and supplies!

From "History of the World" Dodd, Mead and Company, 1902. Work in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The illegal hoards of grain, malt and barley gathered by the bard were then sold to neighbours and friends at inflated prices during times when food was scarce. Shakespeare was prosecuted for illegal hoarding in 1598. In Britain at that time food shortages, hunger and famine were common as crops often failed, taxes and regulations were levied against farmers and the poor and the weather was largely unpredictable. There was no modern scientific explanations for diseased crops or poisoned food stocks.

The team at Aberystwyth University, led by Dr Jayne Archer, explored the themes of hunger, food and famine in Shakespeare's works and found it to be a recurring topic. Although Shakespeare's hoarding was technically illegal during times of food shortage, the team believe it sheds some light on the personality of a man we know surprisingly little about. It could show him in a humanitarian light because the hoarding was his way of protecting his family from the ravages of famine.

Although he's one of the world's best known writers now, perhaps this latest study shows that during his time, maybe Shakespeare was just an ordinary, working class man trying to make a living for his family.

For more details on this fascinating story, see the BBC news site click here. The full details of the study will be revealed by the team during the 2013 Hay Festival.

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