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Old 05-03-2003, 06:41 PM   #1
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To toke or not to toke? That is the question

Cheech and chong - and Shakespeare. Wonder what he would do when he got the munchies....

Anthropologist says Shakespeare might have smoked marijuana
Peg Meier, Star Tribune - Published May 4, 2003

To toke or not to toke? That is one question.

Several 17th-century clay pipes found at the site of William Shakespeare's home were used to smoke marijuana, a South African anthropologist says. Although he has no proof that the Bard was the guy who smoked the pipes, he surmises that some of Shakespeare's sonnets and plays also lend credence to the possibility that the writer smoked marijuana for inspiration.

J. Francis Thackeray of the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria spoke last week to the University of Minnesota's Undergraduate Anthropology Club. It invited him to Minnesota to speak about his major area of study -- ancient ancestors of humans in Africa -- but when members heard about his sideline, they asked him to address that too. His talk, "Shakespeare's Tenth Muse," drew a bigger audience than the club's other events on campus.

Thackeray said in an interview Friday that he has never ingested marijuana himself and certainly doesn't recommend using it. In fact, he believes that Shakespeare warned against it. Shakespeare's suggestion to "weed this wormwood from your fruitful brain" might mean, Thackeray said, that the Bard was "aware of the deleterious effects of drugs."

Thackeray said his "hobby" developed after he played the part of the ghost in Shakespeare's "Hamlet" in 1998. That renewed his interest in Shakespeare's work. He noticed a reference in Sonnet No. 76 to "invention in a noted weed." "Weed" is a slang term for marijuana, and "invention" can refer to writing. The same sonnet refers to "compounds strange," a known reference to drugs. In Sonnet 27, Shakespeare wrote about "a journey in my head." Sonnet No. 118 speaks of "to make our appetite more keen, with eager compounds we our palate urge." Perhaps a reference to marijuana as an appetite stimulant, Thackeray wonders.

Intrigued, Thackeray asked the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon to allow South African researchers with state-of-the-art equipment to analyze 24 pipe fragments. Marijuana degrades over time, but eight of the fragments showed signs suggestive of marijuana, he said. Two also showed evidence of cocaine.

"We do not claim that any of the pipes belonged to Shakespeare himself," Thackeray said.

A Shakespeare enthusiast at the university disagreed: "He's making much ado about nothing," said Christine Gordon, an academic adviser in the university's College of Liberal Arts, honors division. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on Shakespeare. She said, "I wouldn't mind if Shakespeare smoked marijuana, but I don't think he did."

She looked over the sonnets this week and came to different conclusions. For example, she thinks "noted weed" in Sonnet 76 refers to clothing, not marijuana.

When Thackeray's theory was first publicized two years ago, Georgianna Ziegler, head of reference for the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., told the Associated Press that scholars had no proof that Shakespeare took narcotics. "I'm not saying that Shakespeare would never have drunk, or eaten, or smoked marijuana, because it was used as a medical remedy of the time. But we have no evidence that he ever used it for pleasure," she said.

Hemp, the plant from which marijuana is derived, was widely grown in Shakespeare's England, according to Thackeray. It was used for garments, rope and paper, some of which was used to print Shakespeare's work. In fact, Queen Elizabeth, Shakespeare's patron, declared that landowners with more than 60 acres were obligated to plant cannabis, the herb from which marijuana is derived. Shakespeare owned 120 acres. But, Thackeray said, it is not known how potent the plants were.

The clay pipes also showed evidence of tobacco use. Several painted portraits of Shakespeare show a stain on his left lower lip, Thackeray said, suggesting that he smoked a pipe.

Thackeray said he'd love to be able to have Shakespeare's bones analyzed for evidence of drug use, but there are reasons that won't happen. One is that Shakespeare put a curse on his skeleton: "Cursed be he who moves my bones."

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Old 05-03-2003, 07:26 PM   #2
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Actually, I believe it was Ben Jonson who put the curse on Shakespeare's bones... that's why it was never moved to the Westminister Abbey.

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Old 05-04-2003, 03:08 AM   #3
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i tend to feel a little more intellectually stimulated when i'm high.

so i wouldn't be suprised.

shit! the cops don't visit this site, do they?
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Old 05-04-2003, 06:54 AM   #4
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I always thought Shakespeare smoked, and thought it was common knowledge. I suspect it was the English teacher who taught my drama class who made me think this. She often joked (or maybe not) about Ben Johnson and Shakespeare being pisspots and smokers.
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