South African scientists found cannabis in fragments of pipes unearthed in William Shakespeare’s garden and suggested that the Bard might have been enjoying a bit of the ganja while writing his masterpieces.
Even more curious: That news is 14 years old.
So why are people talking today about Shakespeare possibly being a pothead?
Led by Francis Thackeray of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, researchers performed modern-day forensic tests on 400-year-old tobacco pipes dug up around Stratford-upon-Avon, including Shakespeare’s garden. National Geographic reported on their findings back in 2001.
The analysis followed Thackeray’s hunch that Shakespeare’s reference to the “noted weed” in Sonnet 76 might have been a cryptic reference to marijuana.
Eight of 24 pipe fragments the scientists tested contained remnants of marijuana; four of those came from Shakespeare’s property. Two also contained hints of Peruvian cocaine, but Shakespeare wasn’t known to use the stuff.
The scientists concluded that their findings confirmed that “a diversity of plants was smoked in Europe.”
“This has also begged the question whether the plays of Shakespeare were performed in Elizabethan England in a smoke-filled haze?” Thackeray wrote last week for TheConversation.com.
The report did not prove that Shakespeare smoked the pipes with the pot. And now that this old theory has resurfaced, at least one Shakespeare scholar has poured cold water on it.
“We don’t know what Shakespeare did or didn’t do,” Shakespeare expert James Shapiro, a Columbia University professor, tells The Huffington Post.
“Just because these pipes were found in his garden doesn’t mean his neighbor kid didn’t throw the pipes over the fence.”
But the thought that the great playwright might have toked from time to time should come as no shock, given that cannabis has been used for thousands of years, only becoming outlawed in England and elsewhere in the early 20th century, according to IFL Science.
But church leaders condemned smoking cannabis before Shakespeare’s time, Thackeray tells CNN. “Writers who were explicit about cannabis could have their books burnt,” he said.
If, in fact, Shakespeare blazed up from time to time, he wouldn’t be the only word genius to do so. Stephen King, Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson and Alexandre Dumas were all known to smoke pot in their day.
Thompson famously told High Times: “I have always loved marijuana. It has been a source of joy and comfort to me for many years. And I still think of it as a basic staple of life, along with beer and ice and grapefruits… And millions of Americans agree with me.”