Shakespeare the Tax Cheat: A Drama in Two Sonnets

April 14, 2021

One April day, in 1564/

(We know the month, but sadly not the date)/
The Bard the world would someday all adore/
Was born to write the plays we’d see as great./

Today we think of Shakespeare’s clever quatrains./
Yet he was so much more than just a scrivener./
His businesses included trading grains/
And storing them for buyers making dinner./

But sometimes business prompts a hard discussion:/
What separates a trader from a hoarder?/
How much to charge with no ill repercussion?/
It seems he charged too much for law and order./

And so it came in 1598/
He faced tax prosecution from the state./

To cheat, or not to cheat, that is the question:/
We all know no one likes to pay their taxes./
But sadly, taxes aren’t a mere suggestion/
And Shakespeare put himself above the masses./

The verdict? Well, today, we’re left without one./
The answer, “free” or “guilty,” lost to mystery./
It’s safe to think that penalties were none —/
Or else we’d see the stain on Shakespeare’s history./

So, how are we to think about this Bard?/
The artist, now revealed as merely human./
We still revere his words with high regard,/
Accompanied by moneywise acumen./

And no, we can’t resent his pain at paying./
We sympathize with seeing him disobeying!

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