A Midsummer Night’s Toke?

Or maybe At the Toke of Midnight, anyone? As reported initially in the Flemish newspaper De Morgen, some South African researchers think they might have found a clue to one source of William Shakespeare’s inspiration, and it ain’t the evening sun descending on the Avon river: Scientists want to demonstrate that Shakespeare smoked grass.

That’s wiet in Dutch: grass, man, that Mary-Jane stuff. Oh, and cocaine as well. The evidence so far is a number of pipes found buried in 2001 in the garden of Shakespeare’s Stratford-on-Avon residence, which even after around four centuries still showed traces of both narcotics, and even a couple others. (“The results were in keeping with that of a modern crack-pipe,” was the rather cruel remark of one of the investigators.)

Now this research team from the underside of the Dark Continent has petitioned the Anglican Church for permission to get into the Bard’s grave, despite his clear instructions that that should never happen. (“[C]ursed be he who moves my bones” is part of his self-chosen gravestone epitaph.) But wait, they say, we don’t have to move anything! We just want to check a tooth – just one! – to look for any grooves that would indicate that he actually stuck those pipes in his mouth.

Besides, it’s right there in his Sonnet 76, line 6: “And keep invention in a noted weed.” So is that the smoking gun (so to speak)? Doubtful; other Shakespearean scholars think that a reference to clothes instead, e.g. “in a noted garb.” Click through to the article itself if you’d like a reminder (in English) of what that Sonnet is about, and a chance to judge for yourself.

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