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William Shakespeare & Drugs: Was He A Cripple? Did He Smoke Marijuana For Pain Relief?

SHAKESPEARE AND MARIJUANA: Was William Shakespeare a cripple? His sonnets make mention of a disabled character. If so, did he smoke marijuana - a recognised medical pain relief drug for the infirm?

SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS MAKE reference to disability. Then, traces of marijuana were found in the
garden of his home. Was he crippled, and if so, did he smoke weed for pain relief? By Ben Arogundade.

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THE SUGGESTION THAT William Shakespeare may have been crippled has its roots in interpretations of two passages within his sonnets. Firstly, sonnet 37 reads: “As a decrepit father takes delight/To see his active child do deeds of youth,/So I, made lame by Fortune's dearest spite,/Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth”.

The theme then reappears in sonnet 89: “Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault/And I will comment on that offence./Speak of my lameness and I straight will halt,/Against thy reasons making no defence”.

SHAKESPEARE DISABLED? FACT OR FICTION?
So, is the disability the Bard speaks of here, real or imagined? Critics have speculated for centuries. George Wilkes — citing sonnet 87 (“And so my patient back again is swerving”) — claimed that he was crippled in his upper back, while W.J. Thoms contended that Shakespeare became disabled while serving as a soldier in the Netherlands in 1586. Another claimed that he was injured while on stage at London’s Fortune Theatre. In 1877 Clement Mansfield Ingelby wrote that Shakespeare was actually a hunchback with a limp. As usual, no evidence was offered for any of these wild claims. Nevertheless, the speculation refused to dissipate, and in 2007 Rene Weiss, Shakespeare professor at University College London, re-energised the debate yet again with his biography, Shakespeare Revealed, contending that the Bard’s Sonnets actually reflected his real life, and that he was indeed crippled.

MARIJUANA AS MEDICAL TREATMENT
However, just as the 126 adoring sonnets Shakespeare penned to the mysterious “Fair Youth” do not prove that he was bisexual, by the same token, all these hypotheses do not prove that he was lame. But, there has been one further notable development in recent years. In 2001 a South African Research team discovered traces of narcotics in a series of clay tobacco pipes found in the garden of Shakespeare’s Stratford home and the neighbouring area. Eight of them showed traces of compounds relating to marijuana, although the drug itself was not detected, as it degrades quickly with age and heat, and is difficult to identify. Marijuana was available in Britain during Shakespeare’s time, and was used in the production of paper, rope and clothing.

SHAKESPEARE'S PAIN RELIEF?
At most, these findings only suggest that Shakespeare was aware of the existence and use of narcotics in his time. There is no evidence that the pipes belonged to him, or that he was a user. Nevertheless, it is interesting to speculate that if Shakespeare was crippled, perhaps he smoked marijuana for pain relief. The drug is known to help those with chronic nerve pain due to injury. If true, this adds another exciting dimension to the personality of literature's most elusive figure, as well as throwing up a number of fascinating questions. Where would Shakespeare have got his supply of marijuana? How often would he have smoked it for pain relief? Could he have become addicted to marijuana treatment as a result of extensive use?

These are exciting hypotheses that no one can prove, but such speculations do feed into our imaginings of the Bard’s life, which ultimately succeed in helping to keep his legacy alive.

The SHAKESPEARE MASHUP by Ben Arogundade is out now.

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*SHAKESPEARE AND MARIJUANA TREATMENT FACTS ACCORDING TO GOOGLE SEARCH

600

The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase, “Marijuana treatment” each month.

18,000

The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase, “Marijuana facts” each month.

110,000

The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase, “Medical marijuana” each month.

*All figures for “Shakespeare And Marijuana Treatment Facts According to Google Search”, supplied by Google. Stats include global totals for laptop and desktop computers and mobile devices.

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