Pubdate: Sun, 16 Aug 2015
Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Copyright: 2015 The Commercial Appeal
Author: David Ng, Los Angeles Times


In "Romeo and Juliet," the lovelorn hero proclaims that "Love is a 
smoke raised with the fume of sighs."

The line may have actually been inspired by the fumes of cannabis, 
according to a recently published paper on William Shakespeare and 
his smoking habits.

The report, which cites a 2001 analysis of early 17th-century pipes 
from Stratford-upon-Avon and the Bard's own residence, argues that 
Shakespeare could have smoked the substance and was probably well 
aware of its hallucinatory effects.

In some cases, the pipes contained evidence of cocaine, though it 
remains unclear if Shakespeare himself ingested the substance.

Though the new paper is based on a 2001 study, it advances the 
argument by citing possible references to drugs in the writings of 
Shakespeare. The paper also states that Shakespearean scholars were 
critical of the original study and urges them to reconsider the evidence.

"Literary analyses and chemical science can be mutually beneficial, 
bringing the arts and the sciences together in an effort to better 
understand Shakespeare and his contemporaries," wrote Francis 
Thackeray, the author of the paper who was also involved with the 
original study. He teaches in the Evolutionary Studies Institute at 
the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

For the original study, researchers were loaned pipe bowls and stems 
from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon, which 
has several of the pipes excavated from the garden of Shakespeare.

Using gas chromatography mass spectrometry, a procedure common in 
forensic testing, researchers found evidence of cannabis in eight 
samples, nicotine from tobacco leaves in at least one sample, and 
"definite evidence" for Peruvian cocaine from coca leaves in two samples.

Neither of the two pipes containing nicotine and coca evidence came 
from the garden of Shakespeare, according to the study. But four of 
the pipes with cannabis did.

The study cited Shakespearean writing that contains references to 
what could be interpreted as drugs. For instance, the Bard's Sonnet 
No. 76 features references to "compounds strange" and "a noted weed."

Thackeray wrote in the new paper that "Shakespeare may have been 
aware of the deleterious effects of cocaine as a strange compound," 
though it's possible that the Bard "preferred cannabis as a stimulant."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom