Not more than 10 days ago, Jonathan Crow highlighted for you Adam Bertocci’s Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, a book that asks you to suspend disbelief and imagine, What if…William Shakespeare had written The Big Lebowski?
Now comes news that makes the collision of the Bard’s and Lebowski’s worlds somewhat more plausible. According to The Telegraph, “South African scientists have discovered that 400-year-old tobacco pipes excavated from the garden of William Shakespeare contained cannabis, suggesting the playwright might have written some of his famous works while high.” Lebowski could relate.
If you want to get into the specifics, you can read the précis published in The South African Journal of Science called “Shakespeare, plants, and chemical analysis of early
17th century clay ‘tobacco’ pipes from Europe.” It details how a team, led by anthropologist Francis Thackeray at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, used a “sophisticated technique called gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS)” to analyze “pipes [that] had been excavated from the garden of William Shakespeare.” The results of their study? They “indicated Cannabis in eight samples, nicotine (from tobacco leaves of the kind associated with Raleigh) in at least one sample, and (in two samples) definite evidence for Peruvian cocaine from coca leaves of the kind which Thackeray et al. associated with Drake who had himself been to Peru before 1597.”
Thackeray also finds literary support for the idea that Shakespeare had a taste for Cannabis, noting that in “Sonnet 76 Shakespeare writes about ‘invention in a noted weed’. This can be interpreted to mean that Shakespeare was willing to use ‘weed’ … for creative writing (‘invention’).” The précis goes on to add: “In the same sonnet it appears that [Shakespeare] would prefer not to be associated with ‘compounds strange’, which can be interpreted, at least potentially, to mean ’strange drugs’ (possibly cocaine).” You can read Sonnet 76 in full here:
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.