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Sounds like an April Fool’s headline, but no such luck. The Daily Mail reports that William Shakespeare, author of such long boring plays as I’m Getting M&Ms at Intermission, was caught and fined several times for hoarding and selling food (come famine-time). The Bard never exactly had a reputation for sitting quietly and penning his great works in solitude. He allegedly took inspiration from his illegal food business and the plight of the ordinary man. 

In the 1500-1600s there were no copyrights or royalties, so writers couldn’t depend on future income from plays. Documents indicate Black Market Billy stockpiled corn, barley and malt like a stone-cold hustler and sold it back at inflated prices during food shortages, shaking down those in debt and skipping out on taxes so regularly he was threatened with jailtime (but did end up becoming the richest guy in town). Hey, you can’t write about the strife of the poor on an empty stomach. 

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