William Shakespeare – poet, actor, dramatist… stoner? Did the preeminent Bard of Avon get baked while writing his masterpiece plays and sonnets? If you care to partner the results from an inspection of clay pipe fragments with a healthy dose of speculation, then the answer is yes. Much ado about nothing? Perhaps.
Reports CNN on Aug. 10: “New correspondence published in the South African Journal of Science highlights how an analysis of residue found in early 17th-century tobacco pipes excavated in Stratford-upon-Avon, central England, found indications of cannabis and nicotine. The report, which was first published in 2001, said that several of the pipes came from Shakespeare’s garden.”
To smoke or not to smoke? That is the question being hashed out in social media, after scientists decided to take a closer look at the residue inside of 400-year old clay pipes found in William’s garden in his Warwickshire town. The 17th century deposits tested positive for cannabis.
The researchers used a technique called gas chromatography – an analytical method whereby a sample is dissolved in a solvent and then vaporized to separate the components. Evidence of cannabis was found in eight samples; four of the samples came from Shakespeare’s property.
“Shakespeare may have been aware of the deleterious effects of cocaine as a strange compound,” said South African anthropologist Francis Thackeray. “Possibly, he preferred cannabis as a weed with mind-stimulating properties.”
Adds the IBTimes: “Some of the fragments analyzed also contained traces of cocaine, although none of these samples were found in Shakespeare’s garden. Nonetheless, this is another substance that he was speculated to have at least tried, and maybe didn’t enjoy, as he wrote in Sonnet 76 that he would rather not be associated with “compounds strange,” or “strange drugs,” which has been theorized as cocaine.”
Of course, the weed could have belonged to anyone. Perhaps Shakespeare enjoyed hosting his fellow Elizabethan playwrights as they chilled in the garden and discussed the early flappings of their poetic wings. Or maybe the cannabis was enjoyed by the 26-year-old Anne Hathaway, whom Shakespeare married at the age of 18.
Columbia University professor James Shapiro, who has published a number of books about Shakespeare, said: “We don’t know what Shakespeare did or didn’t do. Just because these pipes were found in his garden doesn’t mean his neighbor kid didn’t throw the pipes over the fence. There are a million possible explanations.”
The evidence therefore is rather doobie-ous. Sound off below: Do you think Shakespeare was a stoner?