From the archive, first published Tuesday 7th Nov 2000.
A LEADING expert on the life and works of William Shakespeare this week said it was unlikely that the Bard was more high on cannabis than the pleasure of creativity after reports at the weekend suggesting the man of the millennium was a pot head.
Director of the Shakespeare Institute, Peter Holland, said it was unlikely Shakespeare had puffed anything other than plain old tobacco simply because drugs were not readily available at the time.
However, two scientists from South Africa believe the world-acclaimed playwright's prolific production could have been down to his smoking habits and are using the latest forensic techniques to examine pipes formerly displayed at New Place, Shakespeare's last home.
Dr Frances Thackeray and Professor Nick van der Merwe of the Transvaal museum in Pretoria are taking a close look at the 400-year-old pipes using gas chromatography to discover what was burned in them.
Mr Holland said he thought it unlikely they would find any evidence of the weed in the pipes as they may not actually come from New Place and: "cannabis, opium and other drugs were not really available during Elizabethan times".
He said the lack of similarities between Shakespeare's texts and those of other famous authors believed to have written while under the influence, like William Blake and Lewis Carroll, showed only genius and imagination probably inspired the Bard.