At an event earlier this week, a colleague mentioned Shakespeare's recent birthday and offered a few appropriate lines. Exhilarated by the latter, I've always been a little skeptical of references like the former - to the actual man - as I've written about here previously.
Now comes this article in the UK
Telegraph Independent about Shakespeare as a wiley businessman and speculator who made a fortune off of grain:
Hoarder, moneylender, tax dodger — it's not how we usually think of William Shakespeare.
But we should, according to a group of academics who say the Bard was a ruthless businessman who grew wealthy dealing in grain during a time of famine.
Researchers from Aberystwyth University in Wales argue that we can't fully understand Shakespeare unless we study his often-overlooked business savvy.
"Shakespeare the grain-hoarder has been redacted from history so that Shakespeare the creative genius could be born," the researchers say in a paper due to be delivered at the Hay literary festival in Wales in May.
The charge sheet against Shakespeare was not entirely unknown, though it may come as shock to some literature lovers. But the authors argue that modern readers and scholars are out of touch with the harsh realities the writer and his contemporaries faced.
He lived and wrote in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, during a period known as the "Little Ice Age," when unusual cold and heavy rain caused poor harvests and food shortages.
"I think now we have a rather rarefied idea of writers and artists as people who are disconnected from the everyday concerns of their contemporaries," Archer said. "But for most writers for most of history, hunger has been a major concern — and it has been as creatively energizing as any other force."
For artists and writers, it probably always seems as if the times we live in are the very worst for our pursuits, so Shakespeare's 'ingenuity' adds perspective to those struggles. Looks like the arts and business have quite the shared history. No act of common passage, perhaps, but neither a strain of rareness.
Image: Public domain image of a portrait of William Shakespeare by an unknown painter (if you can believe that).