Digging up Shakespeare's remains for drug testing?

Did Shakespeare smoke weed? University of the Witwatersrand anthropologist Francis Thackeray thinks he did. He'd like a chance to prove that, and also learn more about the Bard's life and death, by digging up his body. (Maybe they'll also determine if Shakespeare was Shakespeare, but that's another story.) In 2001, Thackeray and his colleagues unearthed pipes in Shakespeare's garden that tested positive for marijuana, cocaine, and other substances. From RAW Story:
 Wikipedia Commons A A2 Shakespeare "We have incredible techniques," Thackeray told Fox News. "We don't intend to move the remains at all..."

"The pipes we tested still had dirt in them which preserved the residues inside the stem and bowl," Van der Merwe said. "The readings we got were the same as if it had tested a modern-day crack pipe."

Camphor, myristic acid, and quinoline were among other substances detected in the pipes.

"Myristic acid, which is found in nutmeg, has hallucinogenic properties, and camphor, perhaps, was used to hide the smell of tobacco or other substances," Thackeray noted in 2001.

"Scientists want to dig up Shakespeare to find out if he smoked weed" (Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)



  1. Are you trying to tell me artistic people have used drugs in the past? The next thing you are gonna tell me is that water is wet and the sky is blue! When will it end?

    1. I don’t mean to be a dick, but it’d be more accurate to say:

      Are you trying to tell me everyone did drugs in the past?

  2. I didn’t think we were really certain that he is the same person who once lived as that body?

  3. Obligatory epitaph reference:

    Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
    To dig the dust enclosed here.
    Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
    And cursed be he that moves my bones.

    1. Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
      there’s several tonnes of grass down there.
      Blessed be the man avoids deeds rash,
      and cursed be he that moves my stash.

      1. Nice one, Tdawwg, raised a smile.

        As for old Will – well of course he smoked dope. Does everybody think that Sir Walter kept all the good stuff for himself?

        There’s a fabled lost Shakespeare manuscript out there somewhere… ‘Ye Fabulousse Furrey Freake Bros Lyve Tonite at Ye Global Village Truckinge Companie’…

  4. Hmm…the Chandos portrait bears a certain resemblance to Jeff Bridges’s character from The Big Lebowski.

  5. I have difficulty believing you can get stoned off of saturated fatty acids… Is the original poster perhaps confusing “myristic acid” with “myristicin”?

  6. November 28, 2365 – Recently uncovered evidence suggests that 20th century composer James Marshall Hendrix used marijuana, and now a team of paleontologists want to dig him up to prove it.

    Dr. Nilavra Malani of Jadavpur University speculates that oblique references to the product are found in the lyrical elements of surviving works by Hendrix, who lived during the brief period of its prohibition as an illegal drug.

  7. Unless this somehow legalizes some drugs, I don’t see the point. Let dead stoners/junkies lie.

  8. I’m pretty impressed that coca had been imported to Europe by Shakespeare’s time, only 100 years after Columbus landed in the New World.

    1. Same here. Guess the pillagers of the New World saw gold everywhere.

      What doesn’t sit with me is that they claim that it was cocaine which is the processed alkaloid extracted from the Coca plant. Sure the native people used Coca in every day life, and still do, put I’ve never seen evidence that they processed it into cocaine. It’s my understanding that cocaine wasn’t isolated till 1855 and wasn’t available in any quantity till after the 1860’s. Somebody here is fudging the facts to make this more compelling than it really is.

      1. I think they probably simply wrote cocaine when they should have said the residue from burnt coca leaves. My WAG is that they said cocaine so that more people would understand what they were trying to say, since knowledge of the effects of coca leaves isn’t common place.

        I know for a fact that chewing them gives you a good buzz. It is also known that the leaves were occasionally smoked with tobacco. I’ve never tried that, but I’d be willing to bet a couple dollars that smoking the leaves would also give you a good buzz.

  9. So the real reason we haven’t been able to produce literature of like quality is because of our “War on Drugs”? Let’s rectify that situation, shall we?

    Oh, I forgot…creative types are even more dangerous and evil than scientist types to our politicians. Never mind.

  10. I think it’s bad enough getting drug tested for employment, now you gotta be drug tested for being Shakespeare? Why don’t we just dig up everybody who was a historical figure and start playing with their bones? Sounds like fun to me. We can call it ‘research’. I call dibs on Reagan

  11. Do I have to remind everyone that cocaine is found on ALL currency. Now it is even finding its way into the corpses of long dead famous men. Is there finally no trace of decency left? Drug-War, please leave our cultural icons alone!

  12. AFAIK, they wouldn’t really have to “dig” much. Isn’t Shakespeare’s body (or whoever it is), just behind some marble slab in Westminster Abbey? I say, get them crowbars out and let’s check it out.

  13. I’ve been to the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford where Shakespeare is buried.

    He is deliberately buried 16 feet deep so norml* people WON”T dig him up.

    His grave is also marked by the epitath: “Dear Friends …etc” already mentioned above.

    What righteous cause can enhance its own stature by plumbing these depths?

    Then again it is damn interesting to crack open a Pyramid!

  14. Leave the poor man’s bones alone. If he was half-baked when he wrote so much the better. I just want to know what the fuck a “scamel” is?

  15. We’ve been playing a silly Twitter game all day on this one. Hashtag (Heh.) is #shakespearetokes and the aim is to take a Shakespeare quote, and make it drug related. It’s relatively easy, and someone could grab an awesome thesis by analyzing the number of lines per play (and/or sonnet) that can really, really easily make a connection to sparking the old creative juices.

    I wonder what they did for the munchies in Tudor times? Cotton mouth was probably solved with small beer, or maybe porter. Now I know what Falstaff & company was all about! Not to mention Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek. The two extremities of the chronic hop head morphology. Hmm. Also of traditional SysOps. Replace the thigh high boots for berkenstocks and Bob’s your uncle. Or mayhaps mine nuncle.

  16. There is a painting done in 1606, iirc, about the time of Shakespeare, called “The Smokers”:


    …and other than the clothes, the people it shows look a lot like some people I knew way back in University, decades ago.

    OTOH, IMHO “Smokin’ Shakespeare’s Bones” does make a good title (although AFAIK such an activity is not actually being proposed, at least in public). A title for maybe a comic book. Or a blues song.

    Or maybe even a piece of poetry, or a play: but with a title like that, ought it be a comedy, or a tragedy? Maybe both at once?

  17. Cocaine, back then, really? How about some people partying at Bill’s crib, saluting the old guy?

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