To the delight of cannabis enthusiasts everywhere, The South African Journal of Science reports that researchers have discovered unmistakable remnants of cannabis resin on pipe fragments unearthed in William Shakespeare’s garden. (It’s important to note that of the pipes found, the two with cocaine residue were not found on Shakespeare’s property. Four showing cannabis resin were.) It’s unclear whether he also used the garden to grow his own sea of green—or how the researchers could ever determine 400 years later that the pipe fragments belonged to, or were actually used by, Shakespeare—but who really cares? He isn’t around to dispute it! How cool is it to contemplate Bill the Bard himself…kicking back with some skunky dank nugs while cranking out some of the greatest works in literary history?
The author of the article, Francis Thackeray, apparently agrees, and to a fairly entertaining extent. He writes as would a fellow fan of the flower, if you follow. For example, he notes that in Sonnet 76 Shakespeare laments:
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed
Shakespeare Online tells us that, alas, “Keep invention in a noted weed” means not “Hit some heavy sativa hybrid and dwindle* off to the super creative zone,” but rather “Express and clothe my thoughts in the same familiar dress.” (Weed was a contemporary term for a mourning cloth, or clothing—possibly made of hemp fiber? Come on! Why not?!)
So Shakespeare is seemingly flashing a bit of clever, ironic japery—in this sonnet he repeatedly demonstrates different and richly creative ways to ask why his writing feels uncreative—but Thackeray, showing no lack of “invention”, takes a more FUN view of the verse. He interprets it as a sort of ode* to weed, meaning Shakespeare was using “weed” (cannabis) for “invention” (creative writing). The author also states: “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)”!
We can all be glad Shakespeare wasn’t a crackhead. Thackeray, though, appears to, at least potentially….offer a flawed* interpretation. First, for Shakespeare to have understood whole coca leaf as containing things called “compounds”, in the chemical sense, is…“highly” unlikely. Moreover, the sonnet begins:
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?
Here the Bard ironically employs rhyme, colorful diction and a delightful rhythmic lilt…to bemoan an imagined inability to do so. Far from avoiding “compounds strange”, he expresses a keen, wistful desire to “be associated with” innovative ways of writing and generating new compounds—meaning compound words. (Bet* we can think of something that would have helped stimulate a little of that creativity there, Billy boy! Hmmm. Suddenly the pipe stash makes perfect sense.) In the end he’s trying to come up with new words to express his affection for his beloved:
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.
Yeah…sure, no knack for turning a phrase there whatsoever, Bill. Sheesh…geniuses: always so self-critical.
It may not be too far afield to suggest the Bard burned bud for inspiration; after all, Shakespeare Online lists these gems among a selection from over 1,700 words and phrases he is credited with creating: buzzer, addiction, drugged, laughable, zany, madcap, and mind’s eye. And, as neither of the cocaine-tainted pipes was found in Shakespeare’s garden, perhaps he wisely regarded the addictive narcotic leaf as…too much of a good thing*!
We wholeheartedly agree. We’ve never met anyone who started using cocaine, and their life actually improved. At MagicalButter.com we go the other direction, toward moderation in everything but abundant natural Health and Happiness™! It’s why we advocate ingestion over inhalation of cannabis wherever practical. If Shakespeare were alive today, and we sent him a new MB machine (for converting his favorite “weed” to edible form) and asked him to write a review for his website…perhaps it might begin:
To burn, or not to burn—that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The hot tars and toxins of outrageous combustion
Or to toss herb into a sea of coconut oil
And by infusing end them.
Do you have a favorite literary reference to cannabis or poem about the MagicalButter machine? Share it with us!