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William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptised) 23 April 1616)

Clay pipe fragments excavated from Shakespeare's Stratford-upon-Avon home contain small amounts of cocaine and myristic acid - a hallucinogenic derived from plants, including nutmeg. The pipes, which were examined with the help of Inspector Tommie van der Merwe of the South African Police Service's Forensic Science Laboratory, also show hints of residues of cannabis. Of the 24 fragments of pipe loaned from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to University of the Witwatersrand, cannabis was found in eight samples, four of which came from Shakespeare's property. The findings were published in the South African Journal of Science.

Evidence of cannabis use by Shakespeare is also found in Sonnet #76, the "noted weed" sonnet, where he seems to be saying a "noted weed" inspired his creativity:

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.

What other weed could Shakespeare have been noting? Some have speculated that his reference to "compounds strange" could be the cocaine. But California NORML director Dale Gieringer is skeptical of this, noting that cocaine wasn't available in Europe at Shakespeare's time; it begs the question of whether the pipes were contaminated by modern hands.

Shakespeare's father was a smuggler of illegal wool, and it's theorized that when the Crown cracked down on the market, the young writer was unable to continue his schooling. Will participated in his father's underground enterprise, opening him up to all manner of mankind (and fodder for his later writing).

“What potions have I drunk of Siren tears," he wrote in Sonnet #119.

Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream (c. 1595) turns on a magic flower:

Fetch me that flower; the herb I shew'd thee once:
The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.

One of his last and most powerful plays, The Tempest (1610) also has a magical theme: Prospero, the sorcerer and ousted Duke of Milan, uses his magical powers to conjure up a storm that drives his enemies to shipwreck on the island he rules.

Source: E. Stoddard, Pipes show cocaine smoked in Shakespeare's England, Reuters, March 1, 2001.

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