A recent foray into the home of William Shakespeare has turned up some surprising evidence. Researchers investigating Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon home have uncovered clay pipes in his garden with evidence they may have been used to smoke cannabis.
Cannabis use in Elizabethan England in of itself is not shocking, at least according to Harvard Magazine. At the time, hemp was the “second most cultivated plant” (only after wheat). Before you get too excited, most of that was used for commonplace materials such as making paper, clothing, rope and sails for ships.
In order to discern whether the substance found in the clay pipes was in fact cannabis residue, researchers have taken scrapings and run them through a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer. So far, these tests have indeed shown some evidence of cannabis.
Though the idea of Shakespeare lighting up an Elizabethan bong may explain a lot to those who struggle reading the bard’s work, remember that it probably had very little influence on his work. The discovery of these clay pipes has led some to believe that Sonnet 76 may refer to cannabis; however, scholars feel it’s more likely that his “noted weed” reference pertains to clothing.
Professor Stephen Greenblatt, a noted authority on all things Shakespeare, finds the idea of Shakespeare smoking cannabis humorous. While he admits there is a possibility that he partook in cannabis to relax, he would expect references of it in his works (i.e. mentioning tobacco, smoking, or even pipes). However, they’re lacking.
“I suppose it’s remotely possible that Shakespeare and his family were getting a buzz from what they were smoking, but I very much doubt that it played any meaningful role in his life,” Greenblatt commented.
Greenblatt suggests that it would be much more likely for Shakespeare to have used alcohol as a stimulant, but there is even less evidence of that. Basically, most scholars agree: Shakespeare wasn’t much of a partier.