Shakespeare: Man, Playwright, Junkie?

I have just stumbled upon a fantastic article… Or should I say fantastical?

Cannabis discovered in tobacco pipes found in William Shakespeare’s garden!

The article claims that Shakespeare

might have written some of his famous works while high


South African scientists have discovered that 400-year-old tobacco pipes excavated from the garden of William Shakespeare contained cannabis

Whilst this does not massively come as a surprise, because history is no stranger to use of mysterious substances and tobacco use was growing in the period, the author clearly lacks both journalistic research skills and a strong grasp of the English language.

Shakespeare’s sonnets suggest he was familiar with the effects of both drugs.

In Sonnet 76, he writes about “invention in a noted weed”, which could be interpreted to mean that Shakespeare was willing to use “weed”, or cannabis, while he was writing.

All Miss Bonnie Malkin would have realistically had to do, was call upon the skills of a GCSE literature student and Google the SparkNotes modern translation to discover that the verse she is talking about has very little to do with substance abuse. Or even had she read more than five words of the Sonnet, she would realise that she was placing her quote way out of context.

She continues

In the same sonnet it appears that he would prefer not to be associated with “compounds strange”, which can be interpreted, at least potentially, to mean “strange drugs” (possibly cocaine).

Perhaps, it is then that she was deliberately misleading the masses to make good reading. Perhaps, more unlikely, she was leaving these words as a test. If it is a test, we shall consider ourselves victorious against the demon that is shoddy reporting.

I leave you with this:

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.
Why is my poetry so lacking in new ornaments,
So determined in avoiding variation and change?
Why don’t I, like everyone else these days, take a look
At the new literary styles and weird combinations of other writers?
Why do I always write the same thing, always the same,
And always in the same distinctive style,
So that almost every word I write tells you who wrote it,
Where it was born, and where it comes from?
Oh, you should know, sweet love, I always write about you,
And you and love are continually my subjects.
So the best I can do is find new words to say the same thing,
Spending again what I’ve already spent:
Just as the sun is new and old every day,
My love for you keeps making me tell what I’ve already told.
We are not fooled, Telegraph.

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