The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0154 Friday, 5 April 2013
Date: April 5, 2013 5:57:08 AM EDT
Subject: Re: Shakespeare the Grain-Dealing tax evader
Unless the researchers from Aberystwyth have unearthed some new documents this is a very old story (though exaggerated by news reports).
I take the 1598 “note of corn and malt” as an example. This document listing Shakespeare as one of a number of hoarders of grain at a time of famine was on display in Shakespeare’s Birthplace as long ago as 1925, when it was reproduced in the Trust’s published catalogue. It had previously been printed in Halliwell-Phillips’ 1886 Outlines.
Original documents ceased to be displayed in the Birthplace a number of years ago, but this document was reproduced and commented on by Schoenbaum in his Documentary Life in the 1970s and many biographies since. Even Bill Bryson’s short biography mentions that Shakespeare was “tight-fisted”.
The document and its context is fully considered in a fifteen-page chapter of Dr Robert Bearman’s admirable 1994 Shakespeare in the Stratford Records. Bearman was formerly Senior Archivist for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and is an expert on the Stratford records.