Shakespeare and His Ban on Tobacco

Curiously, Shakespeare never refers to ‘tobacco’ in any of his works despite its popularity as England’s latest and greatest vice (Raleigh supposedly is credited with bringing tobacco to Europe c. 1578). However, a search of ‘tobacco’ (and its related spelling, ‘tabacco’) in EEBO’s ‘verse’ and ‘drama’ databases, during the supposed dates of composition of Shakespeare’s works (1589-1613), reveals its usage by Shakespeare’s contemporaries (list contains year of publication and any parenthetical number refers to the number of publications that year) as follows:

Spenser 1590

Dando 1595

Oat-meale 1595

Nash 1596

Chapman 1598, 1599 (“Tabacco”), 1605, 1606 (2), 1613

Marston 1598, 1601 (“Tabacco”), 1602 (2), 1604, 1605 (“Tabacco”), 1606, 1607, 1613

Rich 1598 (“Tabacco”), 1604 (“Tabacco”), 1612 (“Tabacco”)

Tyro 1598 (“Tabacco”)

Butts 1599 (“Tabacco”)

Davies 1599

Hall 1599 (“Tabacco”)

C. G., Gent. 1600

Dekker 1600 (2 plays), 1602 (2), 1603, 1604, 1607 (3), 1612

Jonson EMOOHH 1600 (“Tabacco”); EMIIH 1601 (“Tabacco”); Cynthias’s Revels 1601 (“Tabacco”); The case is alterd 1609; The alchemist 1612

Rowlands 1600 (“Tabacco”), 1604 (“Tabacco”), 1605 (2), 1607, 1608, 1609 (2), 1613 (2)

Breton 1602, 1606 (“Tabacco”)

Marbecke 1602 (“Tabacco”)

Ouid’s elegies three bookes. By C.M. Epigrames by I.D., after 1602

Holland 1603 (“Tabacco”)

Cooke 1604?

Corderoy 1604

Scoloker 1604 (“Tabacco”)

Underwood 1605 (“Tabacco”), 1612 (“Tabacco”)

Parrot 1606, 1608, 1613

Middleton 1607, 1608 (2)

Sharpham 1607 (2)

Tomkis 1607

Turner 1607

Wilkins 1607

The fayre mayde of the Exchange 1607

Day 1608

Weelkes 1608

The merry deuill of Edmonton 1608

Wits A.B.C. 1608

Armin 1609 (“Tabacco”)

Euerie woman in her humor 1609

Gardiner 1610 (“Tabacco”), 1611 (“Tabacco”)

Sharpe 1610

Middleton and Dekkar 1611

Drayton 1612 (“Indian weed” glossed as “Tobacco”)

Taylor 1612

Vaughan 1612

Beaumont 1613

Dennys 1613

de Meun 1613

Wither 1613

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Why is it that Shakespeare never referred to England’s latest and greatest vice?

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About knitwitted

Goofette and troublemaker
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4 Responses to Shakespeare and His Ban on Tobacco

  1. @EDeVere17 says:

    I couldn’t write anyone smoking into the plays I wrote for the court because Bess and that persnickety nose of hers would stop the performance and start waving her arms around, ranting about the stench. I wanted Falstaff to smoke a bowl of Indian weed at the Boar’s Head (they can presume it’s Tabacco if they want to…), but Tilney put the kibosh on it before it even got out of rehearsal.

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