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Shakespeare: Off His T*ts!

10/08/2015 14:34 BST | Updated 10/08/2016 10:59 BST

So a couple of clay pipes have been found in Shakespeare's garden with residual traces of cannabis.

As a result we have the usual banter, bravado and brouhaha of people elevating drugs to the status of keystone and talisman for all creative endeavour.

It's a tiresome, predictable and ultimately flawed argument when you see this desire to ascribe a holy grail type connection between taking drugs and an artist's output.

It undermines every other part of an artist's life that goes into their work - their formative experiences, their family, their upbringing, their soul, their obsessions, their intellect, intuition, graft, creative influences, their resilience, the love affair they have cultivated with the act of creation itself.

Just to get some perspective - there are lots of people who smoke pot who haven't written the complete works of Shakespeare.

When people get disproportionately excited about stuff like this a better headline might be: "Man sits in a room and smokes pot and does fuck all" - or - "News that a creative genius smoked pot gives validation and hope to a man that will only ever eat biscuits and play Call of Duty"

Same with the Beatles. There are more people who've taken drugs that DIDN'T write Sgt. Pepper than there are people who took drugs and DID write Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The only people I can think of who did take drugs and wrote Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band were the Beatles, so statistically speaking this shows to me other forces are at work in the creation of a piece of art.

Another headline might read "Man takes acid and experiences panic attacks for the next thirty years - does not write the next Sgt. Peppers"

Of course taking drugs can be an experience and some work is created under the influence of drugs. But some work is created under the influence of coffee. Some work is created under the influence of being in love. Some work is created under the influence of being depressed. Some work is created under the influence of being inspired by a sunny day. Some work is created under the influence of having an idea. Some work is created under the influence of being bored. All of these will generate some kind of chemical activity in the brain. They all create a mental state that can drive an act of creativity.

But for some reason there is a lingering desire for us to romanticise drug taking and give it a vaunted status in the lifecycle of an artist - that somehow taking drugs is more important than all the other qualities listed above - that it somehow supercedes the artist themselves and the full sum of their being as being the driving agent.

If Shakespeare smoked a bit of Elizabethan pot then fair enough. But he was also clearly a dude that must have passionately fallen in love with letters and worked at them for it's own sake and it's own buzz. He must have experienced a wealth of emotions, situations and psychological dramas that had nothing to do with taking drugs and which made the substance of his self that he could draw upon and mine when writing. Nor was he a magic man who appeared out of nowhere and then smoked some pot, but rather existed as a writer fully aware of and part of a great tradition - inspired by, influenced by, borrowing and stealing from what had come before. And moreover he was a product of his times - influenced by an ambitious age of ideas - a time of discovery - invention - a renaissance of culture and art that surrounded him every day in a bustling city.

But I suppose if you're sitting in a mound of McDonalds BBQ sauce dips and trying to get Luigi to reach some coins above a venus fly trap it's more fun to just say, "Yeah man...Shakespeare...I told you...he must have been so high...hur hur...what was he on...hur hur..."