William Shakespeare, perhaps Western literature’s most renowned contributor, might have enjoyed an occasional hit of cannabis, according to a study published in July.
The scientists carried out a chemical analysis on broken pieces of pipe found in Shakespeare’s garden in Stratford-upon-Avon, as well as in the grounds of his neighbours’ homes.
Residue from early 17th century clay pipes found were analysed in Pretoria using a sophisticated technique called gas chromatography mass spectrometry, the Independent reports.
Two pipes found nearby had apparently been used to smoke coca leaves, but the researchers suggest that the great writer deliberately rejected the more potent narcotic.
Francis Thackeray, of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, says that both cannabis and coca were considered variants of ‘tobacco’ during the Elizabethan period.
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).
Shakespeare, if he did use the drug, was likely taking in a product grown quite far from home, one that required a tremendous amount of travel and resources to make its way into his hands.