William Shakespeare definitely smoked some tobacco in a pipe, as did most men in 16th-century Elizabethan England.
And recent excavations of his Stratford-upon-Avon home have uncovered that he may have smoked a little more than tobacco. Residues in pipes found there contained trace amounts of cocaine and marijuana.
However, what this means is hotly debated, as there are no records that cocaine was used at all in England before about 200 years ago.
And although Cannabis sativa was used for clothing, paper, rope, and other products, in England during this time period there seems to be no other indication that it was used as a drug or medicine.
Still, other experts point to Shakespeare’s own writings as proof that he wasn’t foreign to mind-altering substances. Take his Sonnet 76. It’s part of a short ditty to a lover lamenting the fact that he’s run out of original ways to express himself:
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?
The term “noted weed” aside; “compounds strange” is said by some scholars to be a known reference to drugs.
More evidence is surely needed in this case. Stay tuned.