The Bawdy Bard and “The Noted Weed”: Researchers Find Traces of Cannabis and Cocaine in Pipes at Shakespeare’s Homes

200px-Shakespeare<img src="https://jonathanturley.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/180px-herbal.jpg?w=150" alt="180px-Herbal” title=”180px-Herbal” width=”150″ height=”130″ class=”alignright size-thumbnail wp-image-13524″ />A study of pipe stems and bowls from the homes of William Shakespeare by the South African Police Services Forensic Science Laboratory in Pretoria has made an interesting discovery: traces of cannabis and possibly cocaine. The report by the South African Journal of Science suggest that Shakespeare might have tripped the light fantastic like a seventeenth century Hunter S. Thompson.

O thou weed,
Who art so lovely fair and smell’st so sweet
That the sense aches at thee, would thou hadst ne’er been born.

Othello, 4. 2

The interest in analysis of the stems and bowls was triggered by a reference in one of Shakespeare’s sonnets to the “noted weed.”

180px-Sonnets-Titelblatt_1609In Sonnet 76, Shakespeare writes:

Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods, and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?
O! know sweet love I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.

Police suspected that he may have been describing the effects of pot.

The concentrations were low but positive, according to the police.

“O true apothecary! Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.” Romeo and Juliet (V, iii, 119-120)

The pipes and bowls came from different houses, including the “Harvard House” in Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of the mother of John Harvard after whom Harvard University was named. While cocaine was not produced in its modern form until 1855, coca leaves were introduced into Europe in the 16th century.

O thou invisible spirit of wine! If thou hast no name to be knownby, let us call thee devil!
Othello: act 2, scene 3

The use of cannabis in Elizabethan England was well known and well documented.

The notion of Shakespeare smoking pot brings a new meaning to some of his best known quotations:

“Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs, being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes, being vexed, a sea nourished with lovers’ tears. What is it else? A madness most discreet, a choking gall and a preserving sweet”
Shakespeare love quote from Romeo & Juliet – Act 1, Scene 1

Indeed, there is now question whether the quote in Henry V, act 1, scene 3 was meant to be ”
Henry V: act 1, scene 3, was meant to be “I would give all my fame for a pot of ale” or “I would give all my fame for the ale of pot.”

I suppose the question is not whether Shakespeare could write 200 literary work while high but whether he remembered writing them. This may explain his prolific writing career: he may have thought he was constantly working on his first play.

If true, this could undermine some anti-drug campaigns since kids can now say, “let me get this straight, you are telling me that if I don’t stop smoking weed, I’ll end up like William Shakespeare?”

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46 thoughts on “The Bawdy Bard and “The Noted Weed”: Researchers Find Traces of Cannabis and Cocaine in Pipes at Shakespeare’s Homes

  1. Mike S hope you are doing well and I wish you a speedy Gonzalez recovery. That was a copy of Buddahs post but the awnswer to your question is yes.

  2. Buddha,

    I’ve been thinking that maybe an American Pale Ale would be the way to go. They’re lighter, generally have a nice citrus flavor\aroma from the hops. You could also do Anchor Steam, it’s similar, but with a cleaner flavor (they use lager yeast at ale temperatures) and it features Northern Brewer hops, which don’t have that citrus flavor.

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