Most writers we know who blow a lot of grass can’t write an intelligible sentence, but anthropologist J. Francis Thackeray says Shakespeare may have smoked marijuana, since several 17th-century clay pipes found at the site of his home had been used to smoke grass.
He says Shakespeare’s line “weed this wormwood from your fruitful brain” might mean he was “aware of the deleterious effects of drugs.” In Sonnet No. 76, Shakespeare writes of “invention in a noted weed,” meaning he might have smoked for inspiration. The same sonnet refers to “compounds strange,” and in Sonnet 27, Shakespeare wrote about “a journey in my head.” Sonnet No. 118 says, “to make our appetite more keen, with eager compounds we our palate urge.” Marijuana users have a huge appetite after smoking it.
Thackeray asked the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon to let researchers analyze 24 pipe fragments. Eight of the fragments showed signs of marijuana, and two also showed evidence of cocaine. “We do not claim that any of the pipes belonged to Shakespeare himself,” Thackeray says.
Hemp, the plant from which marijuana is derived, was widely grown in Shakespeare’s England, and was used for clothes, rope and paper. Shakespeare’s patron, Queen Elizabeth I, declared that landowners with more than 60 acres were required to plant marijuana, and Shakespeare owned 120 acres.
There’s no telling what you’ll find by breaking open the head.
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