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article imageShakespeare the stoner: Cannabis found in poet's tobacco pipes

By Ocean Malandra     Aug 11, 2015 in Entertainment
Cape Town - Residue of marijuana found in excavated pipes from Shakespeare's garden sheds new light on the western world's most celebrated poet's source of inspiration.
"Why write I still all one, ever the same, And keep invention in a noted weed" - William Shakespeare, Sonnet 76
A article just published in the South African Journal of Science entitled Shakespeare, plants, and chemical analysis of early 17th century clay ‘tobacco’ pipes from Europe has sent a shockwave through not just the scientific, but the literary community as well.
Using state-of-the-art forensic technology, three scientists from the University of Cape Town analyzed the residue in pipe stems and bowls from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, including several pipes which were found in the poet's garden and and are believed to beeen used by Shakespeare himself.
The gas chromatography mass spectrometry technique used by the scientists revealed traces of cannabis in eight of the pipes, showing that Shakespeare was at least a casual toker and may have used the herb to help inspire his poetry and plays.
Cannabis was brought to London in the early 17th century by explorers like Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. Both were also known to attend Shakespeare's plays in the court of Queen Elizabeth.
Whether these famous naval navigators "turned on" Shakespeare to marijuana smoking remains a matter of speculation, but the authors of the study do suggest that Shakespeare preferred the mind-stimulating effects of the herb over coca leaf, which was also found in several of the pipes.
Widely used by everyone from jazz musicians to visual artists like painters, cannabis has been found to stimulate creativity in scientific studies. A 2012 study conducted at University College London, for example, found that marijuana was able to raise the "verbal fluency" levels of those under its influence.
Shakespeare could have been tapping into this creativity enhancing power of marijuana for inspiration in composing his works.
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