Did Shakespeare toke? That's the question Francis Thackeray, an anthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, hopes to answer. According to FOX News, which broke this story last week, Thackeray heads a team of scientists who want to exhume and examine Shakespeare’s bones. The scientists want to paint a picture of the playwright’s health history, determining, for instance, if he ever suffered from plague. The question of his toking, though, has garnered the most attention.
“If we find grooves between the canine and the incisor, that will tell us if he was chewing on a pipe as well as smoking,” Thakeray told FOX.
Dr. Thackeray is most noted in the anthropological community for finding 24 pipes in Shakespeare’s garden in 2001. The pipes contained traces of cannabis, myristic acid, a hallucinogen found in nutmeg, and cocaine.
“The readings we got were the same as if it had tested a modern-day crack pipe,” Inspector Tommy van der Merwe, a South African forensics expert tasked with testing the pipes, told The Raw Story.
"Maybe the Elizabethans were just experimenting with various drugs seeing what worked and what didn't," Thackeray told National Geographic at the time.
Shakespeare predicted that people would dig up his body, and he feared it. He wrote his own epitaph, which is chiseled into his tomb in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. "Good frend for Jesus sake forebeare,” it reads. “To digg the dust encloased heare; Bleste be the man that spares thes stones, And curst be he that moves my bones."
Thakeray defended his ambitions to the Daily Mail, stating “With patience we could achieve great results while staying within the letter of the warning."
Image: "The Shakespeare, Lower Temple Street - pub sign" by ell brown on Flckr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.