Dagga leaf. Photo: Neil Baynes

A group of SA scientists want to find out what killed William Shakespeare, and whether or not he smoked dagga, according to Sunday's Rapport newspaper.

Paleontologist Francis Thackeray, attached to Wits University, and his colleagues, are asking for permission to open the grave of the English poet and playwright, located at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. He died in 1616.

They are hoping to use laser technology to create a three-dimensional image of his skeleton, and to use this to answer several questions, including the cause of his death.

Grooves between his teeth could serve as an indication he chewed on his pipe. Thackeray has inspected 24 small pipes found buried in Stratford and Shakespeare's garden, and found traces of dagga in eight of them.

In one of his sonnets, Shakespeare refers to the “noted weed”.

When asked how long the church would take to consider his request, Thackeray told Rapport: “I'm a paleontologist. I can wait.” - Sapa