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shakespeare smoked weed

Did Shakespeare Smoke Weed?

By Jonathan O`Callaghan

Cannabis has been in use for thousands of years, and was not criminalized in the U.K. and the wider world until the early 20th century, so it’s perhaps not too surprising that its use was accepted before then.

But it is interesting, nonetheless, that some of the greatest works of literature in English history may have been influenced by the oft-maligned drug. Research has suggested that William Shakespeare (1564-1616) may have smoked cannabis, and there are a few excerpts from his work that back-up the claim.

A team of South African scientists performed forensic analysis on 400-year-old tobacco pipes dug up from Stratford-upon-Avon, including Shakespeare’s garden. Of the 24 fragments of pipe, eight contained traces of cannabis, four of which were from Shakespeare’s property. Two also contained traces of cocaine, but these were not found on his property, and Shakespeare is not thought to have used cocaine.

The findings, led by Francis Thackeray of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, are not new. They were carried out in 2000, but recently republished in the South African Journal of Science after the debate on whether Shakespeare smoked cannabis was reignited by an article written by Mark Griffiths in Country Life.

Griffiths suggests that a play called “A Country Controversy” was written by Shakespeare, and in the short play a reference is made to an herb “that which maketh time itself wither with sondering.”

Speaking to IFLScience, Thackeray said: “I suggest that this is a cryptic reference to cannnabis, which is known to have the effect of making time ‘slow down’ – as perceived by a person smoking cannabis.”

A technique known as gas chromatography mass spectrometry was used to pick up the traces of narcotics in the original forensic study, a technique that can detect them even after such a long period of time.

“Chemical analyses of residues in early 17th-century clay ‘tobacco pipes’ have confirmed that a diversity of plants was smoked in Europe,” Thackeray wrote in The Conversation. “Literary analyses and chemical science can be mutually beneficial, bringing the arts and the sciences together in an effort to better understand Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

“This has also begged the question whether the plays of Shakespeare were performed in Elizabethan England in a smoke-filled haze?”

Looking back at some of Shakespeare’s work, he does seem to leave a few clues that he may have been under the influence. As Shakespeare-Online points out, in his Sonnet 76, he alludes to using “a noted weed” for “invention” (writing), but shies away from “compounds strange,” which may refer to cocaine.

We may never know the whole truth, but the findings do at least suggest Shakespeare may have used a bit of assistance when writing some of his 38 plays and 154 sonnets.

Cannabis has been in use for thousands of years, and was not criminalized in the U.K. and the wider world until the early 20th century, so it’s perhaps not

Cannabis discovered in tobacco pipes found in William Shakespeare’s garden

Forensic testing of 400-year-old pipes suggest playwright might have smoked more than just tobacco

South African scientists have discovered that 400-year-old tobacco pipes excavated from the garden of William Shakespeare contained cannabis, suggesting the playwright might have written some of his famous works while high.

Residue from early 17th century clay pipes found in the playwright’s garden, and elsewhere in Stratford-Upon-Avon, were analysed in Pretoria using a sophisticated technique called gas chromatography mass spectrometry, the Independent reports.

Of the 24 fragments of pipe loaned from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to University of the Witwatersrand, cannabis was found in eight samples, four of which came from Shakespeare’s property.

There was also evidence of cocaine in two pipes, but neither of them hailed from the playwright’s garden.

Shakespeare’s sonnets suggest he was familiar with the effects of both drugs.

In Sonnet 76, he writes about “invention in a noted weed”, which could be interpreted to mean that Shakespeare was willing to use “weed”, or cannabis, while he was writing.

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).

Forensic testing of 400-year-old pipes suggest playwright might have smoked more than just tobacco