Did you ever read a William Shakespeare play or sonnet in high school and think, “What was this guy smoking?” It turns out, the answer is weed. (Coincidentally, the answer is always weed.)
Scientists at the University of the Witwatersrand analyzed clay fragments of 17th century tobacco pipes found in and near Shakespeare’s garden in Stratford-upon-Avon and published their results in the South African Journal of Science. They used gas chromatography mass spectrometry on 24 fragments — some belonging to Shakespeare and others belonging to neighbors — to get a better sense of how popular marijuana, coca leaf, and tobacco leaf were among people of the time.
Eight out of the 24 fragments tested positive for cannabis, and four of those eight fragments were from Shakespeare’s garden. Now it’s only a matter of time before we’ll see a designer pot strain named “Shakespeare’s garden.”
None of the pipes belonging to Shakespeare tested positive for cocaine, although some of his neighbors’ did. The Independent also lays out a case for how Shakespeare may have hinted at his drug of preference in his writing:
In Sonnet 76, Shakespeare writes about “invention in a noted weed”. 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).
I don’t remember any of this being in the Oscar-winning documentary Shakespeare in Love.