No, They're Not Digging Him Up.

I’ve avoided this week’s “Shakespeare may have smoked pot” story because, frankly, it doesn’t interest me all that much. Not only is it not very new (link to a story from Nov 2000 – about the same guy, even), but it’s being reported horribly. Once you wade through all the ridiculous articles ranging from “Dude, Shakespeare smoked bowls??” to “Of course Shakespeare smoked pot, haven’t you ever seen Midsummer Night’s Dream?” it seems that everybody’s reporting the story as “Dig him up to see if he smoked pot.”
The problem is, they’re not digging him up.

If given the go-ahead, Prof Thackeray will use scanning equipment to create a 3D image of the bard.

Prof Thackeray said: ‘We are confident that we could complete our work without moving a single bone.’

I suppose the only interesting question to me is, what if they did conclusively find evidence that Shakespeare was smoking something while he wrote? Would that change your opinion of him at all? Just as importantly, how do you think it would change the world’s opinion? Do you think there’s any possible way that people would suddenly begin to dismiss him because of that? Or, from the opposite angle, would that be the single greatest vote in favor of marijuana legalization in the history of the drug?
I guess there are interesting questions after all. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “No, They're Not Digging Him Up.

  1. Seriously, people. Look at this example from an unnamed article. Ready? First sentence:

    Paleontologists are considering digging up Shakespeare to answer to the burning question of the poetic ages.

    Ok? First sentence. Now the second sentence of the next paragraph:

    The intention is not to disturb the poor old guy, but rather to scan his bones and determine a health history.

    I mean, come on, how stupid do these writers think their readers are? I suppose there's an obvious joke here that either a) they're stoned while writing this stuff or b) they think we're stoned while reading it?

  2. This is exactly why some of my fellow journalists drive me nuts. You can't use "dig him up" if they're not. I get that you want people to be intrigued and read the story but shouldn't having "Shakespeare" and "pot" in the same headline be enough?

    That said, I don't think it would change a thing and even more so this guy's research would go unnoticed in the long-run. Kids are still going to be taught Shakespeare in school and English majors will still read him in college but not a single teacher will preface it with "Today we're going to read 'King Lear' writen by Shakespeare who used to roll blunts and smoke bowls."

    I am 100% in support of more Shakespeare research but not this kind.

  3. Well, they will need to "dig him up"–or, really, they will need to dig down to his bones so that they can use this equipment–his bones aren't just sitting there on a shelf somewhere–one account says they're buried seventeen feet below ground level! I suppose, to get all semantic about it, it depends on what you mean by "dig him up."

    But this does seem like a silly and flippant reason to dig him up. One of the original stories sites sonnet 76's "keep invention in a noted weed" as an indication that Shakespeare smoked marijuana–completely ignoring the fact that "weed" wasn't used to describe marijuana until 1929!


  4. Oh God, yet another spurious argument the stoners in my life will use to defensively justify something that does not need justification.

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