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Did Marijuana Fuel Shakespeare’s Genius?

South African researchers used cutting edge forensics to analyze residue from 24 pipe fragments, including bowls and stems, found in William Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon garden to ascertain just what the bard was smoking.

The findings, published recently in the South African Journal of Science, showed that eight of the pipes tested contained traces of cannabis and two samples contained definite evidence for Peruvian cocaine from coca leaves.

Other pipes appeared to be laced with tobacco, camphor, and hallucinogenic nutmeg extracts high in myristic acid.

Although there has been unquestionable prior evidence for the smoking of coca leaves in early 17th century England, neither of the pipes with cocaine came from Shakespeare’s garden. But four of the pipes with cannabis did.

Shakespeare may have been aware of the deleterious effects of cocaine as a strange compound and therefore preferred cannabis as a weed with mind-stimulating properties, according to an article in The Independent.

It has been claimed, that Sir Francis Drake may have taken coca leaves to England after his visit to Peru, writes Britain’s The Independent, just as Sir Walter Raleigh took tobacco leaves from Virginia to England.

The technique used in the tests is very sensitive to residues that can be preserved in pipes even if they had been smoked 400 years ago, which these had.

The findings, according to The Independent, beg the question as to whether Shakespeare’s plays were performed in Elizabethan England in a smoke-filled haze? And whether Shakespeare was stoned when he wrote them?

According to references in some of his sonnets, Shakespeare may well have been a stoner. Check out Sonnet 76, for starters… and there are many more references, so dust off your Shakespeare volumes and enjoy.

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Maureen Meehan
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Maureen Meehan is a New York-based writer, who has worked as a foreign correspondent for many years.

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