William Shakespeare was such a prolific and imaginative playwright. Is it possible that the Bard smoked pot for inspiration? That certainly paints a memorable picture: the Swan of Avon, sitting low in a chair with blood-shot eyes taking hits off a doobie, being careful to prevent ashes falling on his sparkling white ruff. And this is the picture that Francis Thackeray, head of paleontology at Ditsong National Museum of Natural History (Pretoria, South Africa), wanted to paint when he declared in March 2001 that “Shakespeare may have used cannabis as a source of inspiration.”
Thackeray explained the catalyst for his research: “This project was initiated in part by a re-reading of Shakespeare’s sonnets, in particular, Sonnet 76, where Shakespeare refers to ‘invention in a noted weed.'” In Sonnet 27, Shakespeare mentions “a journey in his head.” Thackeray believes that “invention” refers to writing and “weed” refers to cannabis. “A journey in his head” should be self-evident. Thackeray and his team dug up the garden of Shakespeare’s home located in Stratford upon Avon and discovered fragments of 17th-century smoking pipes that contained traces of cannabis. Cannabis was certainly not new to Elizabethans — it had been grown in England as early as 400 AD.
Shakespeare scholars, however, believe something is rotten in the state of paleontology. A stoned Shakespeare? — poppycock! Ann Donnelly, curator of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust dismisses the claim: “People love to come up with reasons for saying Shakespeare was not a genius. I don’t think there’s any proof that he was helped in any way by taking narcotic substances.” Shakespeare scholar, Stanley Well, argues the obvious point — there is no proof that those pipes belonged to the Bard. Furthermore, “weed” in Sonnet 76 refers to costume (for example, compare the line in The Winter’s Tale (4.4.1): “These your unusual weeds.” So take that, Thackeray, and stuff it in thine pipe!
For further reading: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/1195939.stm