ByLy Velez, writer at
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Ly Velez

The mere mention of Shakespeare's name often elicits thoughts of a posh night at the theatre, watching the work of a legend unfold before your eyes. The legendary playwright penned history's most famous stage performances that have gone on to inspire hundreds of theatre and film productions. That being said, even a play-writing powerhouse like Shakespeare had to find a way to relax too!

According to South African scientists, Shakespeare might have found the perfect stress reliever in the form of a cannabis leaf! Powerful gas chromatography techniques revealed traces of cannabis on 400 year old pipe fragments found in the playwright's gardens in his hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon. The study also led to the discovery of traces of cocaine and nicotine residues. However, these were found on fragments located away from the Bard's gardens.

Although anthropologist Francis Thackeray from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and his team have been met with negativity from Shakespearean scholars, many claim to have found supposed references to drug use in Shakespeare's own work.

Sonnet 76 mentions "noted weed" and "compounds strange," leading some to believe that these were cryptic messages to the substances Shakespeare might have used to stimulate his creative writing. While the South African study does not claim to have concrete proof of the Bard's substance use, it does suggest that “literary analyses and chemical science can be mutually beneficial, bringing the arts and the sciences together in an effort to better understand Shakespeare and his contemporaries."

This cannabis habit is but the newest addition to the never ending slew of speculation that surrounds the legendary writer. While quite a bit is known about him, myths will forever blur the truth...

1. Spelling

In addition to timeless stories, Shakespeare gifted the English language with several new words such as assassination, bedazzled, pageantry, addiction, and swagger. Despite his contributions to the English language, however, it was evident that he had some trouble with spelling. "Silence” was spelled as “scilens” in his First Folia, and five spelling variations of his last name have been found: Shakp, Shaksper, Shakspe, Shakspere, and Shakspeare. However, the varying last names could have been due to experimentation with pen names.

2. The Globe Theatre

Today, theatre fans can still take a visit to the Globe Theatre to experience performance the way Shakespeare himself did. Don't expect to literally walk in his footsteps, though. On June 29, 1613, a cannon used for special effects during a production of Henry VIII quickly sparked the thatched roof, causing the entire building to go ablaze. After being rebuilt in 1614, the theatre was then torn down due to Puritan pressures. The building that still proudly stands today was built in 1997, a mere 18 years ago.

3. Heterosexuality

It is true that the playwright was married Anne Hathaway (not the one from The Princess Diaries!) and fathered two children. However, many still question his sexuality. Several of his writings, especially his sonnets, refer to "The Fair Youth" as a young man rather than a young woman. The Earl of Southampton is said to potentially have been Shakespeare's "Fair Youth" since he was known for his relationships with men and boasted several Shakespearean works dedicated to himself.

4. He and He Alone

William Shakespeare may be able to boast about his own genre of entertainment, but he definitely had some help along the way! Collaborations were common during his day in age. In fact, the first half of Pericles is thought to have been written by George WIlkens. Even the 1964 The Two Noble Kinsmen had John Fletcher's name written on the title page, indicating yet another collaboration with his contemporaries. Looks like even William Shakespeare needed some team work!

5. A Man Dedicated to His Work

Popular culture has romanticized Shakespeare into becoming a passionate writer solely dedicated to his masterpieces, when in fact, he was a man of many pursuits. In his hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon, he was known as a successful businessman, while acting was his pursuit in London. He performed in the Chamberlain’s Men troupe and even took on roles in his own plays, including possibly the ghost in Hamlet and King Duncan in Macbeth.

The interwebs are full of myths and legends about the Bard, but while Shakespeare the man will continue to be blurred by speculation and time, Shakespeare the legend will forever live on. So enjoy the stories on your news feed, folks! Just be careful about believing everything you "share"!



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