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Did William Shakespeare smoke cannabis?

Posted on July 1st, 2011 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

South African anthropologist Francis Thackeray has asked permission to open the graves of William Shakespeare and his family to determine what killed the Bard—and whether his immortal works may have been composed under the influence of cannabis. While Shakespeare's bones could reveal clues about his health and death, the question of his cannabis use depends on the presence of hair, fingernails or toenails in the grave.

Thackeray, director of the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, conducted a study in 2001, which found evidence of cannabis residue on pipe fragments found in Shakespeare's garden. Hemp was grown in England in Shakespeare's time, used to make textiles and rope. Some Shakespearian allusions, including a mention of a "noted weed" in Sonnet 76, spurred Thackeray's inquiry into whether the Bard may have used hemp flowers for inspiration.

Thackeray is seeking approval for his research from the Church of England. "If there is any hair, if there is any keratin from the fingernails or toenails, then we will be in a position to undertake chemical analysis on extremely small samples for marijuana," he told MSNB's LiveScience June 27, which couldn't resist the headline "Doobie or not doobie?"



Shakespeare got high: evidence

Bill Weinberg's picture

The results are in. No indication that researchers were allowed to remove the bones of the immortal bard, but the did analyze bits what had presumably been his smoking pipes. 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. (The Telegraph, Aug. 9)

Comment by Bill Weinberg on Aug 10th, 2015 at 6:46 pm

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