Why William Shakespeare May Have Been Involved In Organized Crime

William Shakespeare is a giant in the world of literature and has achieved almost god-like status in the 500 years since his death. While many hail him as a legendary figure, Shakespeare, as we see him now, may not be the man he actually was. Did you know that there is speculation that the Bard was involved in organized crime? While this idea sounds a bit far-fetched, it may not be completely out of the realm of possibility.

According to Mental Floss, during the 1590s, many of the London theaters often operated as fronts for organized crime. The Lord Mayor of London at the time condemned these playhouses as gathering places for criminals, including "thieves, horse-stealers, and whoremongers." Accusations against William appeared in 1596 when a dispute erupted between Francis Langley, the owner of The Swan Theatre, and a local magistrate named William Gardiner and his step-son William Wayte.  Threats were made and Shakespeare's name got dragged into the fray because of his supposed dealings with Langley.

According to Smithsonian, it's possible that as a new actor, young Willie was forced to deal with some unsavory characters, including Francis Langley. Research shows that Langley had quite the rap sheet and made money by nefarious means. Then you have William Gardiner and William Wayte, who were also criminals in their own right. Though there is evidence that shows that Langley, Gardiner, and Wayte were bad seeds, debate still exists as to the extent of Shakespeare's involvement in their dealings.

The company you keep

In addition to the creepy acquaintances William Shakespeare made in 1596, there is something else that lends credence to the theory that he was some kind of criminal past. Between 1585 and 1592 (prior to meeting Langley and crew), no one knew where he was. That's right. He essentially disappeared as there is no evidence of where he was or what he was doing for those seven years. According to Yesterday, the reason for this could be explained by Shakespeare's criminal activities. Theoretically, if he needed to flee his home of Stratford because of crimes he might have committed, it would make sense to stay off the grid until stuff blew over.

While there is some evidence that the Bard definitely had connections to some unsavory characters, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot tying him to specific crimes. At the same time, they do often say that 'birds of a feather flock together." Therefore it appears that one of history's greatest writers may have more skeletons in his closet than first thought.