Mandrake (Atropa Mandragora) Presented in Fiction: Harry Potter And the Chamber of Secrets
CAUTION: MANDRAKE IS POISONOUS!
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Mandragora (Purple) Flower

General Overview of Mandrake (Mandragora):

Botanical Classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Mandragora
Species: Mandragora autumnalis
Mandragora officinarum
Mandragora turcomanica
Mandragora caulescens
Relatives: Nightshade Family: Peppers, Tomatoes, Potatoes, and Belladonna
Common Names: Satan’s Apple, Mandragora, Atropa mandragora, Love Apple


Mandrake is a plant belonging to the Nightshade Family (Solanaceae), poisonous in all of its parts, whose anthropomorphic appearance throughout history is shown to resemble a distorted, ugly human being, and as Amy Steward in Wicked Plants claims, “Members of ancient civilizations thought that the bifurcated, hairy root looked lie a devilish little person, sometimes male, sometimes female (Wicked Plants, 105).”

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Mandrake (Mandragora) Root


Appearance and Properties of a Mandrake Root:

Above ground the Mandrake is an unimposing little plant with a foot-tall rosette of leaves, small pale greenish-yellow or purple bell-shaped flowers, which produce mildly poisonous fruits (orange to yellow berries, hence the name “Satan’s Apple”) that resemble small, unripe tomatoes. However, the roots that lie underground are the true source of its most vicious power. The mandrake’s occult power, thus, is associated with the humanoid form of its root. ALL parts of the Mandrake root are POISONOUS, so ingestion of the raw root itself is to be STRONGLY AVOIDED, as it is toxic. The roots are large and brown, running three to four feet into the ground. The roots contain bifurcations, meaning they “divide into branches,” “two-pronged,” or are “forked,” from the Medieval Latin word bifurcatus. In other words, the roots are both thick and divided into two branches, which causes them to look like human figures. Thus, Mandrake is best known for the large, brown root resembling a carrot that splits about midway into two distinctive branches, which look something like legs. Ancient civilizations associated the bifurcated, hairy root that appeared to be a little devilish human person with curing demonic possession, and for love potions because it resembled a male sexual organ. The mandrake root was also widely believed to shriek when it was pulled from the ground, so loudly, in fact, that its screams would kill anyone who heard it.
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Mandrake Flowers

To view Steward's version of the Mandrake Root: click here:


Diagram of Mandrake Root Located Here:



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Mandragora Fruit (Green/Yellow Berry) and Flower (Purple)






















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Mandrake seeds with a single mandrake fruit (bright yellow berry)
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Mandrake Fruit (Berries)



Relatives to the Species Mandrake:

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Peppers, Chili Peppers (Capsicum annuum)
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Deadly Nightshade (Belladonna)






















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Eggplant (Solanum melongena)
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Wolfberry (Lycium barbarum)

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Tomato (Solanum lypocersicum)

The Mandrake Root belongs to the Nightshade Family (Solanacaeae) because of the fact it contains the same delirient hallucinogenic tropaine alkaloids as that of the Datura (Jimson Weed), Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade), Lycium barbarum (Wolfberry), Physalis philadelphica (Tomatillo), Physalis peruviana (Cape gooseberry flower), Capsicum (paprika, chilipepper), Solanum (potato, tomato, eggplant), Nicotiana (tobacco), and Petunia.

In the Western Hemisphere, a completely different plant by the name Podophyllum petaltum (often called the American Mandrake or mayapple) is a herbaceous perennial plant in the family Berberidaceae, native to the wooded areas of Eastern North America, and thus is entirely unrelated to the European variety (Atropa mandragora) - located in Southern and Central Europe -and has fewer medical applications, but is also poisonous.

Cultivation and Geographic Distribution of Mandrake Root:

It is a point to say that mandrake roots are virtually impossible to find nowadays and are very rare. The seeds are sometimes available in which whole roots can be grown, but it is with great care that you must do so. The Mandrake Root is native to Southern and Central Europe, and around the Mediterranean regions of Greece and Rome, inlands around the Mediterranean Sea, Middle East, and Corsica. These locations are beneficial in that mild winters allow the roots to grow undispersed, and moderate amounts of water do not drench the plant nor kill it. It usually grows in waste places and abandoned fields in sandy and rocky, well draining soil. Mandrakes generally do not tolerate frost well and in cultivation needs to be mulched during the winter. Mandrake can be propagated by seeds, sown upon a bed of light earth, and then sure to come up when the sowing is left to the spring time. When the plants do blossom in the spring, they must be well watered throughout the summer and kept free from weeds. Once it reaches August, the plants must be taken up carefully and transplanted to where they are to remain. The soil should be light and deep, as the roots run far down - about three to four feet. If they are too wet, they will rot in the winter; but if too near chalk or gravel, they will make little progress. Thus, when the soil proves good and conditions are unchanging, mandrake plants will grow to a large size in a few years and will produce great quantities of flowers and fruit. The placement of mandrake roots should roughly be set at least two feet apart once they have reached a good size. More precisely, the habitat required for a mandrake (specifically for the species Mandragora officinarum) are woodland areas, cultivated beds, sunny edges and dappled shade in locations where temperatures never drop under about -15°C, which is why they are primarily located in the Mediterranean. They are in leaf from March to July, in flower from March to April and seeds ripen from July to August. The flowers have both female and male organs (i.e. hermaphrodite) and pollinated by insects; however, the plant can fertilize itself. The roots on the other hand, are extremely poisonous and are carrot shaped, dividing into two which is vaguely suggestive of the human body. The plants require well-drained soils that are acidic or neutral. Mandrake roots tend to prefer light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils. Thus, it can grow either in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade.
Map of Geographic Distribution of Mandrake Root Located Here:

Alnwick Poison Garden

A Video Describing this Garden, located in Northumberland, England is located here on their website: Alnwick Poison Garden

List of Poisonous Plants Inside Alnwick Poison Garden: Belladonna, Tobacco and Mandrake.

“The garden in Northumberland, England, is surely the best place in the world to see wicked plants. Fans of the Harry Potter movies will recognize the medieval Alnwick Castle, which served as Hogwarts I the first two films. In the gardens surrounding the castle is an elaborate poison garden where henbane and belladonna flourish alongside tobacco and a caged cannabis specimen (Wicked Plants, 231).”

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Alnwick Poison Garden in Northumberland, England; Website can be accessed at: http://www.alnwickgarden.com/thegarden/the-garden

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Alnwick Poison Garden
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Inside View of Alnwick Poison Garden



















Chemical Aspects of Mandrake:

Medically, mandrake has been used as a pain killer and as a sedative. It was used in ancient times to anesthetize patients during surgery; however, an overdose can be fatal.

The chemicals contained in a mandrake root that make it a delirient hallucinogenic tropane alkaloid consist of:

  • Atropine: a poisonous crystalline alkaloid (C17, H23, NO3) obtained from deadly nightshade, which has an inhibitory action on the autonomic nervous system, used medicinally in pre-anesthetic medication, to speed a slow heart rate, and as an emergency first-aid counter to exposure to chemical warfare nerve agents; also relieves spasms (antispasmodic), lessens secretions (antisudorific), anticholinergic, and topically used to dilate the pupil of the eye.
    • Side-effects include: Ventricular fibrillation, supraventricular or ventricular tachycardia, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, loss of balance, dilated pupils, photophobia, dry mouth and potentially extreme confusion, dissociative hallucinations and excitation especially amongst the elderly.

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Chemical Structure of Atropine
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Chemical Structure of Atropine


  • Scopolamine: also called hyoscine, it is a poisonous, colorless, syrupy, water-soluble alkaloid (C17, H2, 1 NO4) obtained from certain plants of the Nightshade Family, such as henbane, used primarily as a sedative and mydriatic to prevent the symptoms of motion (travel) sickness; also used as an anticholinergic, sedative and truth serum. Scopolamine dilates the pupils, treats nausea and prevents motion sickness because it depresses the central nervous system.
    • Side-effects include: Besides being highly addictive, common side-effects are due to the anticholinergic effect on parasympathetic postsynaptic receptors, which include dry mouth, throat and nasal passages in overdose cases progressing to impaired speech, thirst, blurred vision and sensitivity to light, constipation, difficulty urinating and tachycardia . Other effects include flushing, fever, excitement, restlessness, hallucinations, or delirium.

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Chemical Structure of Scopolamine
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Chemical Structure of Scopolamine


  • Hyoscyamine: a poisonous, white crystalline alkaloid (C17, H23, NO3) obtained from henbane and other Solanaceous Plants, used as a sedative, analgesic, mydriatic, and antispasmodic. It is also isometric with atropine and thus having similar uses but more potent effects.
    • Side-effects include: dry mouth and throat, eye pain, blurred vision, restlessness, dizziness, arrhythmia, flushing, and faintness. An overdose will cause headache, nausea, vomiting, and central nervous system symptoms including disorientation, hallucinations, euphoria, sexual arousal, short-term memory loss, and the possibility of a coma in extreme cases.

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Chemical Structures of Hyoscyamine

Human Use and Domestication of the Mandrake Root:

In ancient civilizations, mandrake leaves were primarily used for its cooling and therapeutic effects, as either a cure for demonic possession, with the case of the Romans; or in love potions, as the Greeks did. In Greek culture, women carried the root to help them conceive and men carried it to cure impotency. However, these “legends” are proven correct in the scientific, or rather, chemical nature of the Mandrake root, which falls within the herbal classification of anodyne (like aconite, belladonna and coca leaves), containing herbs used as pain relievers (often narcotic), and works as a soporific (i.e. sleep inducer). It is also an anesthetic that causes nerve endings to lose sensation, in which the individual is less aware of pain. Mandrake can also be used as an emetic, which causes the stomach to contract and induce vomiting. Used externally, it can help reduce infections; it also includes laxative properties when ingested in a suspension. Mandrake also is helpful in easing rheumatism (painful disorder of joints, muscles or connective tissue) because of its pain-relieving properties. The fruit is the only part of the plant that can be consumed in small amounts; however, NO part of the Mandrake should be consumed orally. The only downside to dealing with this highly poisonous root is that it must be prepared properly and carefully, as direct ingestion of the raw root itself can lead to severe consequences, as it is severely toxic.

The herbal properties of Mandrakes can also be linked to its’ magical properties. Mandrake, in many cases, has been used to invoke various deities, that which include Circe, Diana, and Saturn. Due to the fact it is a narcotic, mandrake is considered to enhance creativity. Thus, ingestion of prepared potions is reputed to enhance psychic awareness and abilities, and when used in magical spells it is used to increase sexual desire (i.e. as an aphrodisiac). Taken from this magical spell, the “aphrodisiactic” nature of the mandrake led to an ancient practice of carving the root into amulets of protection, love attraction, aura purity, or as a sign of magic. All in all, the Mandrake in ancient times played a very vital role in potent sex-magic rituals.

Currently in our era, the mandrake is used throughout the world as a treatment for removing warts. The compound responsible for this is podophyllotoxin (a toxic polycyclic substance having cathartic properties and antineoplastic activity). Through the use of a topical ointment, it is applied to the desired area where the wart is and the toxin slowly kills the unwanted growth. The grave danger in this, however, is that too much of the toxin could be absorbed through the skin, so it is strongly advised to not apply the ointment to any lesions, cuts or open wounds. Podophyllotoxin is used in certain drugs, legal in the United States, and in the form of ointment or topical cream, in which one can only obtain through prescription and with severe advisement on the part of a doctor.
To view a Podophyllotoxin medication (ointment) called Wartec click here:

Podophyllotoxin is a slow process, however, kills “papillomas” (i.e. cancerous viral cells). Researchers have thus used the mandrake’s poison to kill cancerous cells, which in effect has been tested for killing cancer, but was found to be too toxic because it spread to neighboring tissue that resulted in unwanted killing of cells. The test on rodents seems to be promising in that it proved to be too toxic with lethal doses, in which Podophyllotoxin toxic is “a potent spindle poison that blocks mitosis in metaphase…overexposure causes neurologic, GI and hematological toxicity that occasionally results in fatalities (Medical Toxicology).

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Mandragora officinarum Potion
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Mandrake Oil (right) and Amulet (left).
Magical Uses:

  • As a talisman or amulet
  • Aphrodisiac
  • Love magic
  • Good luck in business or gambling
  • Counter-magic
  • Protector
  • Warding off of evil spirits or spells
  • Invincible against any kind of weapons
  • Flying ointment
  • Fertility
  • Health










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'Manual' for Mandragora officinarum
Medicinal Uses:

Parts Used: Roots, Leaves, Fruits
Actions:
  • Sedative (assuage pain, produce sleep)
  • Antispasmodic (prevent spasms, soothe muscles)
  • Anti-inflammatory (reduce fever, swelling, pain)
  • Hypnotic (produce sleep)
  • Hallucinogenic (produce hallucinations)
  • Emmenagogue (induce menstrual flow)
  • Abortive (premature birth)
  • Emetic (cause vomiting)
  • Anodine tropane alkaloids: Scopolamine, Hyoscyamine, Atropine, Mandragorine, Cuscohygrine
  • (Powerful effect on central nervous system (Extreme CAUTION is ADVISED) - Ex: Morphine, Quinine, etc.)









Unfortunately, however, the Mandrake has lost its' importance (medicinally) in modern times and today has been all but forgotten. Only during the Middle Ages was this plant considered both desirable and magical. Even in ancient (biblical) times, Mandrake was used for fertility purposes and for the passion of love-making by its' aphrodisiacal nature. Mandrake has always been known in antiquity also for its' narcotic properties, used as an anesthetic for surgical procedures. The little plant was so dangerous and powerful that if taken in excessive quantities, the sleep that it helped to induce could become a permanent state of being. Anesthetics in antiquity were quite hard to come by, so many felt compelled to experiment with the most promising plants they knew. In addition to mandrake being one of those supposedly "safe" plants taken in right doses, others like Poppy, Thorn-apple, Henbane and Belladonna likewise produced good results if one could get the dose just right. The most preferred method for administering mandrake to individuals was by making a concoction of some or all of these plants, then let the patient inhale the vapors via a sponge. When done properly, the patient would induce a profound sleep (similar to modern day anesthesia via intravenous or mask), so that the surgeon could perform his business of cutting and sawing off limbs.

Interesting Fact!
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Mandrake Fruit (Berries) - NOT POISONOUS!

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Mandrake Root (in the form of a human child) - POISONOUS!





The toxin is only located in the root of the mandrake, and not the entire plant! This means that the ripe fruit on its’ leaves (i.e. the yellow-orange berries) can be consumed in small amounts. Another interesting fact is that these berries have a very strong apple-like scent, hence the name "Satan's Apple." There has not been enough research on how lethal or harmful the fruit actually is, but then again, no research has found out if the fruit is actually harmful.










Overview of General Uses:
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Mandrake Root with Plant and Flowers above.
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Potion made from Mandrake Root, used by Professor Spout in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to revive the petrified victims of the Basilisk

  • Bowels
  • Cancer
  • Colitis
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dyspepsia
  • Fevers
  • Gallbladder
  • Warts
  • Worms (Expels)
  • Gallstones
  • Headaches
  • Indigestion
  • Jaundice
  • Liver
  • Cancerous Tumors
  • Uterine Disease
  • Vomiting

Side Effects of the Mandrake Root:
Mandrake works its soporific magic through many of the same alkaloids as its deadly nightshade cousins:
  • Parasympathetic depressant
  • Hallucinogenic, thus causing hallucinations
  • Hypnotic
  • Delirium
  • Slows down the nervous system
  • Induces a coma


Historical Background to the Mandrake's Shriek:

Flavius Josephus, a first-century AD Jewish historian says that the Mandrake (calls it ברא (bara’), translated “primitive root”) has one virtue, and that is to expel demons from sick persons, in which the demons can neither bear its smell or presence. He wrote an account that described one method for surviving the mandrake’s horrible screams. “A dog would be tied to the base of the plant with a rope and the owner would retreat to a safe distance. When the dog ran away, if the screams killed the do, a person could still pick up the root and use it (Wicked Plants, 107).” In another account, Josephus also claims that the plant was murderous by nature:

“The plant was fabled to grow under the gallows of murders, and it was believed to be death to dig up the root, which was said to utter a shriek and terrible groans on being dug up, which none might hear and live. It was held, therefore, that he who would take up a plant of Mandrake should tie a dog to it for that purpose, who drawing it out would certainly perish, as the man would have done, had he attempted to dig it up in the ordinary manner (The Natural Path, Mandrake).

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Image Appeared in the Book titled "Tacuinum Sanitatis," circa 1450, of a dog being tied to a Mandrake



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The Mandrake's Curse: After being shown a tasty morsel (far right), a hungry dog is tied to the root of the mandrake. From a safe distance, the hunter throws the food in front of the dog, which lunges forward, uprooting the herb. The dog dies at sunrise (bottom right) and is buried with secret rites.




























As the story goes, then, such a powerfully magical plant was not easy to come by, meaning you could not just run outside and find the plant and start digging. The mandrake according to legend did not take very kindly to being dug out from the ground - haunting in fact - in which it was reported to vanish before an irksome intruder could even get to it. The worse-case scenario, however, is that if the mandrake root stayed put in the ground, the gatherer would have to face the task of digging it up and thus hear the ear-piercing scream as it was pulled from the earth - yet a scream so terrible it would instantly kill anybody within earshot, at a frequency too loud for humans to bare. Due to the fatal scream the mandrake root released to any listener, the individual desiring the root must wear ear plugs at a distance from the root when pulled from the earth. Thus, the hungry dog dies (sacrifices his life) in place of his owner, as displayed in the two illustrations above. An intriguing idea is to speak to someone who has actually heard the shriek of a mandrake to prove these legends either accurate or incorrect, as all researches simply have doubts; However, first-hand experience to whether the mandrake actually screams (so loud to kill you or put you in a coma) is still questionable.

Interesting Fact in History!

A song was dedicated to the poisonous Mandrake in 1988 by Mercyful Fate in their album Dead Again. The lead singer, King Diamond, was very interested in the occult and pagan practices, thus released a song titled “Mandrake,” which discussed the plant’s man-like qualities and its importance in ritualistic activities. Here is the song in the form of a youtube video with lyrics to Mercyful Fate's 1988 song titled "Mandrake:"

Other historical reckonings of the Mandrake include references from the Jewish Bible/Christian Old Testament, magic spells and witchcraft, and in popular culture, which can all be found with descriptions here: Historical Mandrake References

The Mandrake’s Correlation to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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Mandrake Root Potion: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
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Image of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' Novel by J.K. Rowling

In the second novel written by J.K. Rowling titled Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which was also made into a film with the same title, the nature of the Mandrake Root is perfectly displayed in Professor Sprout’s Herbology Class. To wizards, plants are vitally important, so important that all students at Hogwarts are required to take Herbology. Thus, in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, he learns how to grow mandrakes, which are, in fact, real plants studied by historical botanists. At first Harry does not favor the subject at all, but then appreciates Herbology when he discovers that mandrake is the key ingredient of a potion that will cure his severely injured classmate. In Harry’s fourth year he is once again reminded about how important plants are in his wizard training, as he must find a way to breathe underwater during the Triwizard Tournament. His classmate eventually teaches Harry about Gillyweed (a fictitious plant) that when ingested gives its user fins and gills. Pictures and a clip from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets illustrating Harry's classroom instruction in Herbology by Professor Spout is shown here:

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Professor Sprout teaches her Second year Herbology Students how to pot young mandrakes


Note that this specific scene references the uses and harm of the Mandrake:

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Exaggerated depiction of Mandrake Root in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The Dialogue to this specific scene is quoted here:
  • Professor Sprout: "Good morning everyone….Good morning everyone"
  • Class: "Good morning Professor Sprout"
  • Professor Sprout: "Welcome to Greenhouse Tree Second year. Now gather around everyone, today we are going to re-pot Mandrakes. Now whose here to tell me the proper use of the mandrake root? Yes, Ms. Granger?"
  • Hermione Granger: "Mandrake, or Mandragora, is used to return those who were petrified to their original state. It’s also quite dangerous. The mandrake’s cry is fatal to anyone who hears it."
  • Professor Sprout: Excellent. "Ten points to Griffindor! Now as our mandrakes are still only seedlings, their cries won’t kill you yet but they could knock you out for several hours which is why I have given each of you a pair of earmuffs for out of tree protection. So can everyone please put them on right away …Quickly! Flaps tight down and watch me closely. You grasp your mandrake firmly and pull it sharply up out of the pot. (Professor Sprout looks at the mandrake root oddly). Got it, and now put it down in the other pot and pour a little sprinkling soil into it to give it warmth." Neville faints
  • Professor Sprout: "Oh dear. Longbottom's been neglecting his earmuffs."
  • Student: "No, ma'am. He's just fainted."
  • Professor Sprout: "Yes, well. Just leave him there…right. On we go. Plenty of pots to go around. Grasp your mandrake and pull it out." (Mandrakes all screaming high-pitched as the students pull them out of their pots). A Mandrake bites Draco Malfoy’s finger and he looks at it with an angry face. End of Scene.
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Herbology Class at Hogwarts with Professor Sprout

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Ron Weasley repulsed at the Mandrake Root

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Professor Sprout ripping a mandrake from a pot

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Herbology Class covering their ears from the high-pitched shriek of the mandrake root
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Mandrake Root in a pot





“Instead of roots, a small, muddy, and extremely ugly baby popped out of the earth. The leaves were growing right out of his head. He had pale green, mottled skin, and was clearly bawling at the top of his lungs. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling

Thus, according to the many wizards from the Harry Potter novels, Mandrake (Atropa mandragora) is used as a cure for those who have been petrified (paralyzed) by the glance of the Basilisk (means “little king” – a small, foot-long, venomous, serpentine reptile whose gaze is said to have the power of death) in the halls of Hogwarts.

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Basilisk
Comparatively in reality, the nature of the Mandrake Root sides with fictional depictions in that the uses and effects are quite devastating and poisonous. An example is found in “The Magical Herbs of Harry Potter” Apothecary (website can be found here along with other uses of herbs in the wizard world: The Magical Herbs of Harry Potter) which states that, “Medicinally Mandrake is sometimes used topically to treat genital warts, and when taken internally can cause vomiting. An herb to be treated respectfully and with caution, indeed!” J.K. Rowling quotes the importance of wizardly uses of plants (the study of Herbology specifically) in her first ever novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in which she states, “Three times a week they went out to the greenhouse behind the castle to study Herbology…where they learned how to take care of all the strange plants and fungi, and found out what they were used for.” Remember that behind this castle (Alnwick Castle, which is Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films) is an actual castle with a real life poison garden called the Alnwick Poison Garden right near it, which contains many poisonous herbs.

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Hortus Sanitatis, 1491 by Jacob Medenback (Publisher)

In the world of Harry Potter, as stated numerous times, the Mandrake Root is, in fact, depicted quite close to the real root itself. Historically, scholars believed that the study of plants could result in clues as to how nature works. Consequently, in 1491, Jacob Medenback published a compilation of earlier writings into the Hortus Sanitatis. "This single volume catalogued hundreds of plant species and their uses, including those of the poisonous mandrake. At the time, many believed that mandrake roots resembled the human figure and possessed magical powers including the fatal scream fictionalized in Harry Potter. Historical botanists and physicians also recognized the mandrake's medicinal value and sometimes used small doses of the plant as an anesthetic."
The History of Science: Harry Potter's World).

The Growth and Use of the Mandrake Plant Within the Context of Hogwarts

The Mandragora Plant, as numerously exhibited, has a root that looks exactly like a human – more like a baby when the plant is young, but matures as the plant grows, which is similar to human body development. Whenever
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Book of Potions, Harry Potter
the root is unearthed, it screams! Those who hear the scream of a mature Mandrake when it is unearthed will be killed. The Mandrake's scream is often described as being parallel to that of a Banshee, which is also very fatal. However, the scream of a young (baby seedling) Mandrake will only knock the individual out for several hours. This is visibly displayed in Herbology class when Professor (Pomona) Sprout requires her students to wear earmuffs to protect their ears from the Mandrake’s cries. The visible human appearance of the Mandrake is not only manifest in its façade, but also compares to humans in their behaviors. At Hogwarts during the 1992-1993 school year, the Mandrakes became moody and secretive at one point in time, which indicated that they were reaching adolescence. The next stage they were comparable to humans when they are teenagers because they threw a loud party. Hagrid even mentioned Mandrakes having acne. The way to determine when Mandrakes are fully matured is when they start moving into each other’s pots. When they are finally matured, Mandrakes can finally be cut up and served as a prime ingredient for the Mandrake Restorative Draught (explained here: Mandrake Restorative Draught Potion), which is used to cure those who have been Petrified, or the process of being turned to stone. Secondarily, Mandrakes were also used against the Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts.

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Mandrakes are used against these Death Eaters, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
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Mandrake Restorative Draught Potion





















As stated, the potion based on mandrakes is used to restore those attacked by the Monster of the Chamber, the Basilisk. Apparent in the entire series of Harry Potter, the preparation of potions takes time. In this specific case with the Mandrake-based potion, the victims first must be restored so that they can identify the monster (meaning, they need to know where the monster is and what kind of monster it is) and then wait for the mandrakes to become mature. Once mature, they can be used against the monster. In the Chamber of Secrets, Harry immediately vanquishes the monster, before he even has a chance to use the mandrakes. The delay in their maturing is used to force Harry and Ron to come up with another solution to figure out the nature and location of the Basilisk and the Chamber, with limited help from Hermione. Mandrakes once again appear in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in which Neville and Professor Sprout are carrying the potted (mandrake) plants up to the battlements during the preparations for the Battle at Hogwarts. It is to be assumed that this preparation was necessary in order that they cast down the mandrake roots upon the attackers, thus incapacitating the attacking Death Eaters through the cry of the exposed mandrake root.

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Hermoine Granger cooking up a potion
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Neville carrying a potted Mandrake to the Battle of Hogwarts

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Mandrake Solution (Potion) - Madam Pomfrey






















Harry Potter Exhibitions:

Scattered throughout the United States, the most famous being in Times Square (New York City), and some parts of the world (like Australia), there are various exhibitions displaying the characters and concepts of all seven novels of Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, with movies of the same title:
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    Harry Potter The Exhibition - Manadrakes
    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisinor of Azkaban
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1 & 2)

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Harry Potter The Exhibition


A part of the exhibition interestingly shows mandrake roots in pots, just like the novel portrayed as well as in the movie. You can even pull the mandrake roots from the pots to hear their high-pitched scream:
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Mandrakes in pots from Harry Potter - "PLEASE PULL" - mandrake will shriek
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Harry Potter The Exhibition - children pulling the mandrakes from their pots






























Other References to Mandrake in Fiction:

The mandrake root is distinctly mentioned in the movie, Pan's Labyrinth, when the faun gives Ofelia (the main character, played by Ivana Baquero) a mandrake root to place under her pregnant mother's (Carmen's) bed in a bowl of milk. With the root under her bed, Ofelia's mother's fever breaks and she recovers. Thus, by doing this, her mother's illness is instantly cured. In the film, the mandrake is depicted as a fetus-shaped vegetable that needs to be fed two drops of blood a day, which is very similar to The Little Shop of Horrors where Audrie likewise needs to be fed blood by her master in order to survive. However, in this film, the combination of computer graphics and puppetry allow for the human-like qualities of the mandrake root to have effect. The symbolism in Pan's Labyrinth for the mandrake root correlates to the concept of rational human consciousness linked with the spirit-realm. So, this vegetable (the mandrake root) represents a "vegetable" striving to become human (or vice versa), in which the resemblance of the mandrake root takes on a human form. "Humanity is sick and only by re-connecting with the spiritual world (via the "vegetable" aspect) can it be healed (//Sherry Ackerman, PhD//.), so Ackerman tends to connect vegetables with animal realms.
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Pan's Labyrinth, 2006 Film

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X-Files, Episode "Terms of Endearment" agent Fox Mulder works on a case where a women is said to have been given mandrakes and hallucinates the abduction of her child

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X-Files, "Terms of Endearment" - a woman given a mandrake hallucinates the abduction of her child by a 'demon-like creature.'

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Flesh & Blood (1985) - The Characters Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Steven (Tom Burlinson) eat mandrake root in order to fall in love with each other.

























Other fictional, historical, biblical and mythological references to the mandrake root can be found here: Mandrake (Plant) in Popular Culture

All in all, what we have learned about the Mandrake Root (Mandragora) is that it is highly toxic, very poisonous and immensely potent. DO NOT ingest the roots unless you want to end up in a coma, and DO NOT pull a mandrake out of the ground because its' shrieks will kill you if it is matured. Lastly, ONLY experienced wizards can combine poisonous herbs to create lethal potions. Unless you are a wizard or witch (....or for modern times, an experienced Herbologist, doctor or researcher), do not TOUCH or EAT a Mandrake Root! Mandrake Roots are very DANGEROUS and POISONOUS!

WILD CARD TOPIC!

The Poison (i.e. Sleeping Potion) Used in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet:
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William Shakespeare, the greatest fifteenth century writer along with the greatest writer in the English language, referred to mandrake root various times in his works. The remarkable fact is how much depth and knowledge he showed for the mandrake, in that he revealed the accuracy of its' powers through the effects it had on his characters. For example, he wrote about mandrake as a sedative in Anthony and Cleopatra (Act 1, Sc. 5), Othello (Act III, Sc. 3), and Macbeth (Act I, Sc. 3); mandrake as a charm in Henry IV Part Two (Act 1, Sc. 2), Henry IV Part Two (Act III, Sc. 2); and as a curse in Romeo and Juliet (Act IV, Sc. 3) and Henry VI Part Two (Act III, Sc. 2). Thus, as in ancient texts regarding mythology and bibliology, Shakespeare wrote about such a potion (mandrake-based) that gave off the symptoms of "like-death," which is precisely what Juliet drank in Romeo and Juliet, based upon a true story from the fifteenth century History of Verona by Girolama de la Corte. The effects listed regarding large doses of Mandrake are: dilation of the pupils, suppression of sweating and saliva, rapid thready pulse, delirium, coma, and death. These effects are described in Act V, scene i of this famous tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, describing the vial of mandrake-based potion that Friar Lawrence gives Juliet to drink: "...through all thy veins shall run a cold and drowsy humor, which shall surcease....no pulse...no warmth...no breath shall testify thou livest...rose in thy lips and cheeks shall fade to paly ashes...they eyes' windows fall...like death...each part deprived of supple government...shall stiff, and stark, and cold, appear like death....and then awake as from a pleasant sleep (Act IV, scene i)." This potion was evidently based on mandrake, in which Shakespeare describes mandrake anesthesia in beautiful poetic imagery.
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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film - Juliet with Romeo's knife

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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film - Romeo drinks poison from apothecary
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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 - Romeo grieving over Juliet's 'supposed' death

The story of Romeo and Juliet has been known for centuries and is one of the best, most popular, archetypal stories about two young "star cross'd lovers" who end up dying for each other in order to be together, ultimately uniting their feuding families (Montague's and Capulets). So how exactly is it that they died? The story evidently starts in the beginning at Verona with a feud existing between two enemies - the Montague's and the Capulets - but to get to the death of these lovers, we will fast forward to Tybalt's death. Once Tybalt (Juliet's cousin) dies by Romeo's hand, a series of events occur: The love between Romeo and Juliet has been strengthened, where they have been joined in marriage and consummated their marriage; Romeo has been declared banished, and subsequently Capulet arranges a marriage between Juliet and Count Paris. Juliet is in a desperate plea to reject her father's arrangement in marriage to this Count Paris. In inimitable pain, she runs to Friar Lawrence for guidance, brandishing a knife, saying that she will kill herself rather than marry Paris. He, understanding her grief, proposes a plan. The friar tells Juliet that she must consent to marry Paris, then on the night before the wedding she must drink a sleeping potion that will make her have the appearance of death. She will then be laid to rest in the Capulet tomb. Thus, the friar offers her a drug (i.e. a sleeping potion) that will put her into a death-like coma for two-and-fourty hours. The Friar then promises Juliet that he will send a messenger to Romeo in Mantua informing him of this plan in order that he can rejoin her and retrieve her when she awakens in the tomb of the Capulets. She will then return to Mantua with Romeo and they will be free to live with each other away from their parents' reluctant hatred. Juliet completely consents to the plan wholeheartedly and so Friar Lawrence gives her the sleeping potion. On the night before her wedding she takes this potion and in the morning, when she is discovered apparently dead, she is laid in the family tomb. However, not according to plan, the messenger does not reach Romeo so he learns that Juliet, his love, is apparently dead from his servant Balthasar. Romeo is extremely heartbroken so he buys a very strong poison from an apothecary in town and goes to the Capulet tomb to reunite with his love in death. When he goes to the tomb, however, Paris is there mourning Juliet privately and believing Romeo to be a vandal, Paris confronts him and in a battle for their life, Romeo kills Paris. Still believing Juliet to be dead, Romeo drinks the poison. When Juliet awakens, she sees Romeo dead, and so stabs herself with his dagger. The feuding families meet at the tomb and find all three of them dead - Paris, Romeo and Juliet. Thus, Friar Lawrence recounts the story of the two "star-cross'd lovers," and the families are reconciled by their children's deaths, inevitably ending their violent feud. The eulogy for the lovers is said thus: "For never was a story of more woe/Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."
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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film - Juliet (played by Olivia Hussey)

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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film - Romeo (played by Leonard Whiting)
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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film - Romeo and Juliet dead
The friar's role in this tragedy is that of an advisor to both Romeo and Juliet, aiding in major plot development by uniting the two when all others are in a civil brawl. The innocent Friar also has a strong connection with plants, as he is always seen in his greenhouse or the church; thus, he gives us foreshadowing with his soliloquy about plants and their similarities to humans. Here is an excerpt from his soliloquy in Act II, Scene iii where Friar Lawrence describes how everything grows from soil and when everything dies, it goes back to the soil, in which fresh things grow from the soil again. The idea is that life goes on, as every death is a new beginning. When Romeo and Juliet die, they die together in a permanent state, which proposes a new start - the feud is over between the Montague's and Capulets. When considering the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, therefore,
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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film - Romeo and Friar Lawrence
the
statement Friar Lawrence makes about earth and the tomb is poignant, as Romeo and Juliet lived in love, died in sorrow, and proposed a new beginning by their joint death:

FRIAR LAURENCE 



The grey-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night, 

Chequering the eastern clouds with streaks of light, 

And flecked darkness like a drunkard reels 

From forth day's path and Titan's fiery wheels: 

Now, ere the sun advance his burning eye, 

The day to cheer and night's dank dew to dry, 

I must up-fill this osier cage of ours 

With baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers. 

The earth that's nature's mother is her tomb; 

What is her burying grave that is her womb, 

And from her womb children of divers kind 

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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film - Romeo and Juliet in church married by Friar Lawrence
We sucking on her natural bosom find, 


Many for many virtues excellent, 

None but for some and yet all different. 

O, mickle is the powerful grace that lies 

In herbs, plants, stones, and their true qualities: 

For nought so vile that on the earth doth live 

But to the earth some special good doth give, 

Nor aught so good but strain'd from that fair use 

Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse: 

Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied; 

And vice sometimes by action dignified. 

Within the infant rind of this small flower 

Poison hath residence and medicine power: 

For this, being smelt, with that part cheers each part; 

Being tasted, slays all senses with the heart. 

Two such opposed kings encamp them still 

In man as well as herbs, grace and rude will; 

And where the worser is predominant, 

Full soon the canker death eats up that plant.



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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film - Romeo unveiling Juliet in the Capulet Tomb
All in all, Friar Lawrence aids in trying to unite the civil feud between the Capulets and Montague's by marrying Romeo and Juliet. In the end he succeeds, but not in the way he expected. Due to the fact Romeo is banished having fled to Mantua because of murdering Tybalt, who had murdered Mercutio, the Friar tries to get the two lovers back together using this death-emulating potion to fake Juliet's death. However, unaware, the letter that the friar sent does not reach Romeo and the Friar is unable to arrive at the Capulet's tomb in time. Thus, Romeo kills Paris, then commits suicide by drinking a poison (deadly and more potent than that of Juliet's, which was simply a sleeping, death-like potion) he bought from an impoverished apothecary over what he believes to be Juliet's dead body. He says, "Here's to my love! (Drinks). O true apothecary! Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die. (Dies) (Act V, Scene iii)." Friar Lawrence eventually arrives at Juliet's grave once she awakes from her chemically-induced slumber. He urges Juliet not to be rash, but he leaves, fleeing from the tomb because he hears a noise from outside. During the time he is away, Juliet, in extreme sorrow at seeing Romeo dead tries to drink any last drop of poison from his lips: "O churl! drunk all, and left no friendly drop/To help me after! I will kiss thy lips;/Haply, some poison yet doth hang on them,/To make me die with a restorative (Kisses him)/Thy lips are warm (Act V, Scene iii)." She subsequently sees another way to die. "Yea noise? then I'll be brief. O happy dagger! (Snatching Romeo's dagger)/This is thy sheath; (Stabs herself) there rest, and let me die. (Falls on Romeo's body and dies) (Act V, Scene iii)." So, Juliet kills herself with Romeo's dagger, completing the tragedy.







William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet Act IV, Scene i:
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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film - Juliet drinking potion for Romeo

FRIAR LAURENCE 


Hold, daughter: I do spy a kind of hope, 

Which craves as desperate an execution. 

As that is desperate which we would prevent. 

If, rather than to marry County Paris, 

Thou hast the strength of will to slay thyself, 

Then is it likely thou wilt undertake 


A thing like death to chide away this shame, 

That copest with death himself to scape from it: 

And, if thou darest, I'll give thee remedy. 



JULIET 


O, bid me leap, rather than marry Paris, 

From off the battlements of yonder tower; 

Or walk in thievish ways; or bid me lurk 

Where serpents are; chain me with roaring bears; 

Or shut me nightly in a charnel-house, 

O'er-cover'd quite with dead men's rattling bones, 

With reeky shanks and yellow chapless skulls; 

Or bid me go into a new-made grave 

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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film
And hide me with a dead man in his shroud; 


Things that, to hear them told, have made me tremble; 

And I will do it without fear or doubt, 

To live an unstain'd wife to my sweet love. 




FRIAR LAURENCE 


Hold, then; go home, be merry, give consent 

To marry Paris: Wednesday is to-morrow: 

To-morrow night look that thou lie alone; 

Let not thy nurse lie with thee in thy chamber: 

Take thou this vial, being then in bed, 

And this distilled liquor drink thou off; 

When presently through all thy veins shall run 

A cold and drowsy humour, for no pulse 

Shall keep his native progress, but surcease: 

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Juliet drinking vile of (sleeping) potion, 'Romeo and Juliet,' 1968

No warmth, no breath, shall testify thou livest; 

The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade 

To paly ashes, thy eyes' windows fall, 

Like death, when he shuts up the day of life; 

Each part, deprived of supple government, 

Shall, stiff and stark and cold, appear like death: 

And in this borrow'd likeness of shrunk death 

Thou shalt continue two and forty hours, 

And then awake as from a pleasant sleep. 

Now, when the bridegroom in the morning comes 

To rouse thee from thy bed, there art thou dead: 

Then, as the manner of our country is, 

In thy best robes uncover'd on the bier 

Thou shalt be borne to that same ancient vault 

Where all the kindred of the Capulets lie. 

In the mean time, against thou shalt awake,
Shall Romeo by my letters know our drift, 

And hither shall he come: and he and I 

Will watch thy waking, and that very night 

Shall Romeo bear thee hence to Mantua. 

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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film - Juliet unconscious from potion

And this shall free thee from this present shame; 

If no inconstant toy, nor womanish fear, 

Abate thy valour in the acting it. 



JULIET 


Give me, give me! O, tell not me of fear! 



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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film - Juliet stabbing herself




















Romeo and Juliet - Act IV, Scene iii
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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film
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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film
JULIET

What if it be a poison, which the friar

Subtly hath minister'd to have me dead,

Lest in this marriage he should be dishonour'd,

Because he married me before to Romeo?

I fear it is: and yet methinks it should not,

For he hath still been tried a holy man:--

I will not entertain so bad a thought.--

How if, when I am laid into the tomb,

I wake before the time that Romeo

Come to redeem me? there's a fearful point!

Shall I not then be stifled in the vault,

To whose foul mouth no healthsome air breathes in,

And there die strangled ere my Romeo comes?

Or, if I live, is it not very like

The horrible conceit of death and night,

Together with the terror of the place,--

As in a vault, an ancient receptacle,


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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film
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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film
Where, for this many hundred years, the bones


Of all my buried ancestors are pack'd;

Where bloody Tybalt, yet but green in earth,
Lies festering in his shroud; where, as they say,

At some hours in the night spirits resort;--

Alack, alack, is it not like that I,

So early waking,--what with loathsome smells,

And shrieks like mandrakes torn out of the earth,

That living mortals, hearing them, run mad;--


O, if I wake, shall I not be distraught,

Environed with all these hideous fears?

And madly play with my forefathers' joints?
A
nd pluck the mangled Tybalt from his shroud?

And, in this rage, with some great kinsman's bone,

As with a club, dash out my desperate brains?--

O, look! methinks I see my cousin's ghost

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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film - Balcony Scene

Seeking out Romeo, that did spit his body

Upon a rapier's point:--stay, Tybalt, stay!--

Romeo, I come! this do I drink to thee.



[Throws herself on the bed.]



















Here are two trailers/clips from the 1968 film Romeo and Juliet with Leonard Whiting as Romeo and Olivia Hussey as Juliet:



When the Friar returns to the tomb, he recounts the entire story to Prince Escalus, in front of all the Montague's and Capulets.And so the story of Romeo and Juliet ends with the Prince sorrowfully saying:
A glooming peace this morning with it brings;The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:God hence, to have more talk of these sad things:Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished:For never was a story of more woeThan this of Juliet and her Romeo (Exeunt).
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Romeo and Juliet, 1968 Film - Funeral amongst Montague's and Capulets
References:
  1. A.A Salim,Y.-W Chin and A.D. Kinghorn. (2008). "Drug Discovery from Plants." Retrieved from http://www.springer.com/cda/content/document/cda_downloaddocument/9783540746003-c1.pdf?SGWID=0-0-45-494876-p173755412
  2. Ackerman, Sherry. (2011). "Pan's Labyrinth." Retrieved from http://urokomovie.com/wordpress/?page_id=892
  3. Botanical.com. (2009). "A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve. Mandrake." Retreived from http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/m/mandra10.html
  4. Campbell, James Stewart, MD. (1999). The Plot of the Next Generation Motion Picture About Jesus, Lazarus, and the Resurrection Mystery. "The Mandrake Connection-Discussion." Retrieved from http://mandrakeconnection.com/pages/1/index.htm
  5. Drug Information Online. (2008) "Podophyllum (Topical)." Retrieved from http://www.drugs.com/cons/podophyllum.htm
  6. eMandrake.com (2011). "Mandrake.com Description." Retrieved from http://www.emandrake.com/public/index.php?module=pagemaster&PAGE_user_op=view_page&PAGE_id=4&MMN_position=2:2
  7. Grieve, M. (1995-2011). Botanical.com. "A Modern Herbal - Mandrake." Retrieved from http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/m/mandra10.html
  8. Loria, Anthony. (2011). "Mandrake Root." Retrieved from http://mason.gmu.edu/~aloria/projects/Plant/plant.html#18
  9. Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Medieval Garden Enclosed. (2000-2011). "The Nightshades - The Fruit of the Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum)." Retrieved from http://blog.metmuseum.org/cloistersgardens/2008/11/07/the-nightshades/mandragora-officinarum-fruit-200705142/
  10. Monterey Bay Spice Company. (2011). "Mandrake Root, C/S, Wild Crafted." Retrieved from http://www.herbco.com/p-810-mandrake-root-cs-wild-crafted.aspx
  11. Morgenstern, Kat. (2002). Sacred Earth-Ethnobotany & Ecotravel. "Mandrake in Profile." Retrieved from http://www.sacredearth.com/ethnobotany/plantprofiles/mandrake.php
  12. Plants for a Futute:Database Search Results. (2009) "Mandragora officinarum." Retrieved from http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Mandragora+officinarum
  13. Rowling JK. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. London: Bloomsbury, 1998: 72
  14. Wioszcyna, Susan. (2007). USA Today. "Surprises Lurk Inside "Pan's Labyrinth."" Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/2007-01-02-pans-labyrinth-main_x.htm
  15. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. (2003). "Romeo and Juliet Act 4, Scene 1." Retrieved from http://www.shakespeare-literature.com/Romeo_and_Juliet/19.htm
  16. Van Arsdall, Anne, Helmut W. Klug, and Paul Blanz: "The Mandrake Plant and its Legend." In: Old Names – New Growth: Proceedings of the 2nd ASPNS Conference, University of Graz, Austria, 6-10 June 2007, and Related Essays. Eds. Peter Bierbaumer and Helmut W. Klug. Frankfurt/Main: Lang, 2009. 285-346. Retreived from http://klugi.com/wp/wp-content/papers/science/Van%20Arsdall,%20Anne,%20Helmut%20W.%20Klug,%20and%20Paul%20Blanz%20 %20The%20mandrake%20plant%20and%20its%20legend.pdf

External Links:

  1. Erowid Mandrake Vault
  2. Mandrake in wildflowers of Israel
  3. Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Mandrake". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.