Shakespeare the Businessman

William Shakespeare is considered by many to be the finest writer in the English language and perhaps one of the best in any language. His plays have been performed, read, studied and translated into every major language in the four hundred years since he wrote them. Shakespeare’s literary works and influences are well known. Less well known is his personal life and his business affairs. As a recent study from Aberystwyth University has shown, Shakespeare was a ruthless businessman and even a tax evader. I read the story in Yahoo News.

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.

Jayne Archer, a lecturer in medieval and Renaissance literature at Aberystwyth, said that oversight is the product of “a willful ignorance on behalf of critics and scholars who I think — perhaps through snobbery — cannot countenance the idea of a creative genius also being motivated by self-interest.”

Archer and her colleagues Howard Thomas and Richard Marggraf Turley combed through historical archives to uncover details of the playwright’s parallel life as a grain merchant and property owner in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon whose practices sometimes brought him into conflict with the law.

Actually, none of this is much of a surprise to anyone who has read a decent biography of Shakespeare. He was well known, in his time for being a shrewd and wealthy man. We think of Shakespeare as a writer that writes in an archaic language and who only scholars would care to read. In fact, Shakespeare was popular with Elizabethan and Jacobin audiences. He was the Steven Spielberg of his day and audiences flocked to see plays put on by his company. Thus, he became a wealthy man.

Shakespeare did not actually make his fortune by writing plays. Except for pirated versions, his plays were not published until after his death. No theater company published their plays because publishing plays did not earn nearly as much money as performing them and they did not want their competitors profiting by their efforts. He made his fortune as a part owner of his theatrical company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men or later the King’s Men. Shakespeare was not trying to create great art which would last the ages. Writing plays was a matter of business for him.

This was long thought to be the only portrait ...
Is this the face of a hoarder and tax-evader? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shakespeare led a rather frugal life in London and used most of his earnings to buy property and investments in his home town of

Strafford upon Avon. His wife and children stayed behind as he made his living at London and although he did visit his home, Shakespeare spent much of his life away from his family. Perhaps they felt the living he was able to provide for them was adequate compensation for an absent husband and father. Because Shakespeare was careful with his money, he died a wealthy man, unlike many of his contemporaries in the literary scene, and he was able to give his family a generous inheritance when he died.

I notice that many of the news reports on the Aberystwyth University study are fairly critical of Shakespeare’s business dealings. They shouldn’t be. Shakespeare was trying to do the best he could to get ahead in a hard world.

Archer said the idea of Shakespeare as a hardheaded businessman may not fit with romantic notions of the sensitive artist, but we shouldn’t judge him too harshly. Hoarding grain was his way of ensuring that his family and neighbors would not go hungry if a harvest failed.

“Remembering Shakespeare as a man of hunger makes him much more human, much more understandable, much more complex,” she said.

“He would not have thought of himself first and foremost as a writer. Possibly as an actor — but first and foremost as a good father, a good husband and a good citizen to the people of Stratford.”

After all, a poor, struggling Shakespeare might not have given the world his marvelous plays.

Global Warming and the Lizard People

I had another point to make about the poll I referred to the other day but I thought it would distract attention from my discussion of the Anti-Christ, and anyway the post was getting to be long enough. Let me quote the article again.

It’s official: Americans love their conspiracy theories. Public Policy Polling asked voters to weigh in on 20 more infamous ones, and the results show that a not-insignificant number of people believe that President Obama is the anti-Christ (13%), Big Foot exists (14%), and the planet is secretly ruled by the New World Order (28%). Four percent think our societies are actually ruled by “lizard people.”

  • 21% believe the government covered up a UFO crash in Roswell; 29% believe in aliens
  • 6% believe Osama bin Laden is alive
  • 5% think Paul McCartney has been dead for decades
  • 15% think there’s mind-control technology hidden in TV signals
  • 37% think global warming is a hoax
  • 7% think the moon landing was faked
  • 15% think Big Pharma develops new diseases as a way to make money
  • 14% see the CIA’s hand in the 1980s crack epidemic

If you look carefully, you will notice that one of these crazy conspiracy theories is not like the others in terms of plausibility. It is insane to believe that lizard people rule the world or the CIA distributed crack to minority neighborhoods. It is more than a little silly to believe that Bigfoot exists or the Moon landing is a fraud. These sorts of things are possible, but the available evidence is against their being true. The belief that the New World Order or the Trilateral Commission secretly rules the world seems like paranoia, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to watch any group of powerful people who meet on a regular basis.

What about the idea that global warming is a hoax? Well, given that the behavior of some of the principal proponents of the idea that man made global warming will lead to catastrophic results has been less than honest in their dealings with the public and given that at least some of these proponents seem to have a political agenda that is quite unrelated to any scientific evidence, it does not seem that the theory that global warming (or is it climate change or climate catastrophe or climate chaos?) is a hoax is quite in the same league as these others.

To be fair, I am not sure if the scientists at the Climate Research Institute and elsewhere were consciously engaging in fraud. Their misbehavior may be more due to self-deception, wishful thinking and shoddy scientific technique. They did not take Richard Feyman’s advice.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself–and you   easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful aboutthat. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.

I would like to add something that’s not essential to the science, but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the layman when you’re talking as a scientist. I am not trying to tell you what to do about cheating on your wife, or fooling your girlfriend, or something like that, when you’re not trying to be a scientist, but just trying to be an ordinary human being. We’ll leave those problems up to you and your rabbi. I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you are maybe wrong, that you ought to have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.

Instead of presenting the facts the best way they could, too many decided the matter was so important that they had to be alarmist. If global warming is a real threat, then they harmed their cause considerably.

When you consider the business people and politicians who stand to profit from this sort of alarmism, would be carbon credit billionaires and world leaders who will leap at any excuse to gain more power for themselves (Yes, I have Al Gore in mind), then perhaps hoax is not too strong a word to use.

Of course, the idea here is to associate people who are unconvinced by any lack of evidence for global warming with crazy people who believe that the lizard people rule the world.

The fact that 37% of the people in a poll believe that global warming is a hoax does not, of course, make it a hoax. But then, listing the idea that global warming is a hoax with a group of less plausible ideas does not make disbelief in global warming less plausible. One hurricane, however strong, does not prove that the world is getting warmed, nor was Sandy unprecedented in its size and destructiveness. Sandy was a category 3 hurricane, while the highest rating is category 5. There have been worse tropical storms in the Atlantic.

Hurricane Sandy was the largest hurricane on record as far as actual diameter, as well as the second most destructive in terms of property damage, with 2005’s  Hurricane Katrina causing the most property damage. You have to consider, however, that coasts are more developed today than they were decades ago and property is worth more, not to mention that both these storms struck urban areas in the United States.

I suppose that it is too much to ask that a television meteorologist be familiar with logic and the scientific method though.


RIP Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher, one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers died of a stroke today. She took control of a nation in decline and turned things around, at least temporarily, giving Britain one last moment of glory. Unfortunately none of her successors have seen fit to continue her policies, even her own Conservative Party, and so Britain is on the way down again. On the international stage, she was a stalwart supporter of freedom and a friend to America. She, along with President Reagan was instrumental in winning the Cold War and ending Soviet tyranny. She will be greatly missed.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher



Message from Maryland’s Martin O’Malley

Martin O'Malley, Governor of the U.S. state of...
Martin O’Malley, Governor of the U.S. state of Maryland. Enemy of freedom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A bit of alliteration there. Anyway, I recently received a fund raising e-mail from Martin O’Malley, the governor of Maryland. He wanted to inform me of Maryland’s recent success in curbing gun violence and urged me to support the Democrats.


Throughout my career as a prosecutor, city councilman, mayor of Baltimore, and now governor of Maryland, I’ve had to attend too many funerals for men, women, and children who have lost their lives to gun violence.

I’ve spent my career working with law enforcement to drive down violent crime, and I am happy to say that today, we are taking another step forward toward curbing gun violence.

Yesterday, our state legislature passed a comprehensive public safety package that will make sure fewer mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters will lose a loved one to gun violence in Maryland.

What is this comprehensive public safety package? He doesn’t say. Here are some details, courtesy of Fox News.

The measure would require people who buy a handgun to submit fingerprints to state police, bans 45 types of assault weapons, and limits gun magazines to 10 bullets. It also addresses firearms access for the mentally ill.

Maryland will become the first state in nearly 20 years to require potential handgun buyers to submit fingerprints to state police. Only five other states have a similar requirement: Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

Gun control advocates say the fingerprinting requirement will help keep guns away from criminals, because it will make people reluctant to buy firearms for those who are not allowed to have them. Opponents say the bill erodes Second Amendment rights and ultimately penalizes law-abiding citizens without focusing on lawbreakers.

Although the measure bans 45 types of assault weapons, people who own them now will be able to keep them. People who order the weapons before Oct. 1, when the law would take effect, also would be able to keep them.

People who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility won’t be allowed to have a gun.

The first question that should be asked about all of this is will this legislation actually reduce crimes committed with guns and will the public be any safer as a result. In general, criminals will likely be less affected by any tougher gun control laws than law abiding citizens for the simple reason that being criminals, they are not likely to obey any particular laws. This is not necessarily an argument against the Maryland legislation. It may well be that the benefits will outweigh the costs. The costs have to be considered, though. Is Governor O’Malley prepared to divert law enforcement resources to suppressing the illegal and semi-legal trade in firearms that will develop? Are these measures worth the irritation and aggravation they will cause people with a legitimate need for guns? Will they actually prevent enough crime to make it worth the trouble?

I notice that Governor O’Malley describes the legislation he signed as “a comprehensive public safety package”, without mentioning the detail that this safety package seems more designed to make it more difficult for law abiding citizens to obtain firearms. Why doesn’t he just openly and honestly say something to the effect that he thinks that private possession of firearms causes gun crime and that it is a matter of public safety to discourage such ownership by making the process of obtaining them by private persons as onerous as possible? Why are the Democrats pushing “gun safety” and not “gun control” as they used to? I imagine because they can’t afford to be so honest. American public opinion has been becoming more libertarian in the past few decades, and Americans are less impressed with the idea of government controlling much of anything they were  half a century ago. Note that our recent economic recession did not push American public opinion towards favoring bigger government as liberals had hoped it would. Public opinion has also shifted against the government telling people what guns they can own. So, the Democrats have had to change the slogan.

Here is more from Governor O’Malley.

Even though the proposal is supported by a large majority of Marylanders, we had to work harder than ever before to pass it into law. The interest groups who oppose actions to reduce gun violence are powerful, entrenched, and well-financed, and they fought us every step of the way in Maryland — just as they’re fighting tooth and nail to block any action at the federal level.

The governor does not cite any polls so I have no idea how many Marylanders actually supported the legislation. It would probably depend on how the questions were framed. If asked, “Do you support the proposal to limit gun violence?’, an overwhelming number of people would say “yes”. If the question was, “Do you support a law that will make it more difficult and onerous for citizens to acquire firearms with the ultimate intent of prohibiting gun possession altogether?”, then even in deep blue Maryland an overwhelming majority of people would expression their opposition.In any event, the number of people who support the governor’s proposal is irrelevant. Our constitutional rights are not decided by popular vote, nor is any law a good idea, just because a large number of people support it.

The comment regarding the powerful and well-financed interest groups is a curious one, if you stop to think about it. The idea seems to be that there is one course of action that is obviously the right one and which is best for the common good and anyone who opposes this action can only oppose it because they are selfish and uncaring of the common good. Hence, the unnamed special interests (the NRA or Gun Owners of America) oppose Governor O’Malley’s proposals not because they may think they are bad ones or that they have better ideas, but because they are selfish and maybe even want to see more gun violence. In practical terms this idea of special interests versus the common good means that the persons who are most affected by any proposed legislation, the ones with an interest so to speak, are the same persons who ought not to have any influence on that legislation.

What will happen next in Maryland? I have no idea. It is likely that the new laws will be tested in court and there is an even chance that they will be overturned. Gun stores in Maryland will be making record sales and profits until the new laws go into effect. Crime may well increase and this will be taken as a sign that Maryland’s gun control laws are not tough enough and need to be strengthened. Maybe they will end up banning knives and clubs. Or, maybe politicians like Martin O’Malley will someday learn to leave people alone.Well, I can dream.

Obama the Anti-Christ

According to a recent poll, some 13% of Americans believe that President Obama is the anti-Christ. I read about it in USA Today.

It’s official: Americans love their conspiracy theories. Public Policy Polling asked voters to weigh in on 20 more infamous ones, and the results show that a not-insignificant number of people believe that President Obama is the anti-Christ (13%), Big Foot exists (14%), and the planet is secretly ruled by the New World Order (28%). Four percent think our societies are actually ruled by “lizard people.”

  • 21% believe the government covered up a UFO crash in Roswell; 29% believe in aliens
  • 6% believe Osama bin Laden is alive
  • 5% think Paul McCartney has been dead for decades
  • 15% think there’s mind-control technology hidden in TV signals
  • 37% think global warming is a hoax
  • 7% think the moon landing was faked
  • 15% think Big Pharma develops new diseases as a way to make money
  • 14% see the CIA’s hand in the 1980s crack epidemic

I think that the idea that 13% of the American people believe that Barack Obama is the anti-Christ is simply ridiculous. Whatever I might happen to think of the President’s policies, I could hardly believe that he is some sort of end-times figure of ultimate evil, opposed to God and whatever is good.

Then again..


Well, maybe he is the Anti-Christ.

There seems to be a whole system of beliefs that have grown up over the years regarding the Anti-Christ which do not necessarily correspond to what the Bible teaches. The Anti-Christ is mentioned only in the first and second letters of John.

18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:18-23)

I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we  have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. 11 Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work. (2 John 7-11)

The Greek prefix “anti-” means “against” or “opposed to”. An antichrist, then, is someone or something opposed to, or against Christ. In the context of the verses I quoted, it would seem that rather than a mystical figure of evil, John is referring to one or more persons who are denying  the divinity of Christ, or perhaps heretical teachers. Given the probable date of composition of these letters (AD 90-100), he may also be referring to the persecuting Emperor Domitian or to the Roman government generally.

The Anti-Christ is often identified with the Beast of Revelation.

And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?”

The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. (Rev 13:1-8)

It is this Beast that is represented by a number that everyone must be marked with.

11 Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.

18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man.That number is 666. (Rev 13:11-18)

Again, this seems to be a representation of the Roman Empire and its requirement, so odious to Christians, that everyone must worship the Emperor. Thus the Beast could be seen as an Anti-Christ, perhaps the ultimate Anti-Christ, a person so evil and corrupt as to be under the direct influence of the Dragon or Satan. The author of Revelation could have had Domitian in mind, or Nero, or the Roman Empire generally.

Paul wrote of a “Man of Lawlessness” in Second Thessalonians.

2 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (2 Thess 2:2-11)

The identity of the Man of Lawlessness is not clear. Paul didn’t often write on eschatology and perhaps thought less about the subject than John. He could have had an end times figure of ultimate evil in mind, of he could have been anticipating the coming persecution of the Christians under Nero.

So, is Obama the Anti-Christ? If you consider the seeming contempt he has for Christian values and institutions and his apparent indifference to the idea of religious freedom, both here in the US and abroad, he could well be considered an Anti-Christ, that is someone opposed to Christ, if not the Anti-Christ.




I do not like bullies.

Neither does Ben Shapiro and neither did his mentor Andrew Breitbart, which is probably why Breitbart devoted his like to exposing the biggest bullies of all the contemporary Left, and why Shapiro continued his work by writing Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Intimidation and Fear Silences Americans.


In Bullies, Ben Shapiro describes in exacting detail how the Left uses bullying tactics to shout down and silence all who oppose them. He tells how Leftist bullies in government, in the media, on the university campus, and elsewhere use their position and power to force their viewpoints on people. He writes how liberal bullies in politics use the nastiest and slimiest personal attacks against conservatives to get their way, and then blame the conservatives for the incivility in politics. Green bullies want you to be poor to save the Earth. Secular bullies want to forbid you from praying in a public space. Race and class bullies want to pit Americans against each other. Anti-patriotic bullies want you to be ashamed of your own country. The entire Left is composed of bullies who want to tell you what to do. If you don’t like it, than sit down and shut up.

Luckily, Ben Shapiro is able to relate these stories of the power hungry, bullying Left with a sense of humor. Otherwise, this book might be painful to read. As it is, he writes with just the right, slightly mocking touch that makes his book actually fun to read. Like all bullies, the Left does not like to be laughed at and maybe more books that are humorous will help to put them in their place.

Ben Shapiro concludes Bullies with a rousing appeal to his readers to pick up Andrew Beitbart’s mantle and continue the fight against the thugs and bullies of the Left. Bullies who are unchallenged only get worse so if we want our descendants to live in a free country, we have no choice but to fight them.

By the way, if there is any doubt that Leftists are nothing but bullies, check out the one-starred reviews of this and other conservative books. There seems to be a clique of people who have nothing better to do, they probably collect unemployment, but to publish nasty reviews of books they have not read. Typical.



Atheist Appreciation Day

Today is Atheist Appreciation Day, the day in which we celebrate all the contributions that Atheists have made to science, culture, and the arts throughout the ages. Why should I pick April 1 as a day to celebrate Atheism? Well, it is April Fool’s Day and the Bible states;

The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)

So there you have it. Today is the day for fools to celebrate.

I hope any atheist reading this will forgive me for my little April Fool’s joke. I have been waiting for most of the last year to spring it and I really couldn’t resist. You could say the Devil made me do it, if you believed in the Devil.

Actually, the Hebrew word that is translated as fool in that verse is nabel. The meaning of that word carries a connotation of someone who acts, not just unwisely or foolishly, but also wickedly. A nabel, in other words, is not just a fool in the English sense of the word, but also someone who is morally corrupt. This becomes clearer when you read the psalm in its entirety.

The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

Do all these evildoers know nothing?

They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on the Lord.
But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
for God is present in the company of the righteous.
You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
but the Lord is their refuge.

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad! (Psalm 14:1-7)

Despite my joke, I do not believe that this psalm was directed at the person who holds the intellectual or metaphysical belief that a deity or deities does not exist. Although Atheism as a belief is far older than many modern Atheist apologists like to believe, ancient Greek philosophers made many of the same talking points as the advanced New Atheists have, atheists in the modern sense must have been very rare among the Hebrews at the time this Psalm was written. Rather, this Psalm seems to be directed at those people who profess a belief in God but who live as though there is none.

I think the number of such “practical Atheists” must be very large in any culture no matter how religious or devout that culture professes itself to be. The majority of Americans identify themselves as Christians, at least in a nominal sense, and many would describe the US as a Christian, or a Judeo-Christian nation. Yet, you would be hard pressed to see much evidence of large numbers of Christians, based on these same Americans personal lives, not to mention our popular culture.

The problem is that many people who state that they believe in God, do not in fact believe in God, at least not in the same way that they believe in the world around them that they can see and feel. God, being imperceptible to the senses, becomes an abstraction, and for many people, the desire to fulfill immediate needs and wants overcomes the desire to follow the will of one who seems to be absent. Think of how the world might be different if God would make himself visible for thirty seconds. Then again, maybe it wouldn’t make a difference at all.