William Shakespeare Might Have Smoked Pot

| by Lauren Briggs

Researchers might have found a scientific explanation for William Shakespeare’s offbeat jokes and unusual name inventions: It's likely he was a stoner.

South African scientists recently examined 400-year-old tobacco pipes from Shakespeare’s house and the surrounding neighborhood in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

In those pipes, they found traces of nicotine, cannabis and cocaine.

While Shakespeare’s home is not linked to either of the two pipes with cocaine residue, several of the pipes from his garden yielded traces of cannabis, according to PIX 11.

Scientists in Pretoria, South Africa, borrowed the pipes from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and examined them using a method called gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS) to pick up on any residue preserved in the pipes.

Professor Frances Thackeray of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, led the study, which also suggests that explorer Sir Francis Drake, Shakespeare’s contemporary, might have returned from expeditions to Peru with cocaine leaves and spread them throughout England, just as Sir Walter Raleigh did with nicotiania, or tobacco.

Although the study suggests but does not prove that the Bard was a pothead, Thackeray has found what he believes to be textual evidence of Shakespeare’s marijuana use in a few sonnets.

"In Sonnet 76 Shakespeare writes about 'invention in a noted weed,’” the professor wrote. “This can be interpreted to mean that Shakespeare was willing to use 'weed' (Cannabis as a kind of tobacco) for creative writing ('invention').

"In the same sonnet it appears that he would prefer not to be associated with 'compounds strange', which can be interpreted, at least potentially, to mean 'strange drugs' (possibly cocaine)."

Thackeray imagines that many aristocrats close to Queen Elizabeth enjoyed inhaling their substances of choice through tobacco pipes.

"One can well imagine the scenario in which Shakespeare performed his plays in the court of Queen Elizabeth, in the company of Drake, Raleigh and others who smoked clay pipes filled with 'tobacco,'" he wrote.

Sources: The Sydney Morning Herald, PIX 11
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons