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‘The potent poison quite o’ercrows my spirit’: Poisons John H

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1 ‘The potent poison quite o’ercrows my spirit’: Poisons John H
‘The potent poison quite o’ercrows my spirit’: Poisons John H. Parker, Ph.D. Lipscomb University

2 Poisons in Romeo and Juliet
Juliet’s sleep: atropa belladonna or mandragora 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 Romeo and Juliet. ACT II Scene 3

3 Atropa Belladona


5 The foliage and berries are extremely toxic, containing tropane alkaloids. These toxins include scopolamine and hyoscyamine which cause a bizarre delirium and hallucinations,[1] and are also used as pharmaceutical anticholinergics. The drug atropine is derived from the plant. The symptoms of belladonna poisoning include dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, tachycardia, loss of balance, staggering, headache, rash, flushing, dry mouth and throat, slurred speech, urinary retention, constipation, confusion, hallucinations, delirium, and convulsions. The plant's deadly symptoms are caused by atropine's disruption of the parasympathetic nervous system's ability to regulate involuntary activities such as sweating, breathing, and heart rate. The antidote for belladonna poisoning is physostigmine or pilocarpine, the same as for atropine.


7 Mandgragora Mandrake is the common name for members of the plant genus Mandragora belonging to the nightshades family (Solanaceae). Because mandrake contains deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine, apoatropine, hyoscyamine and the roots sometimes contain bifurcations causing them to resemble human figures, their roots have long been used in magic rituals, today also in neopagan religions such as Wicca and Germanic revivalism religions such as Odinism.


9 Romeo and Juliet’s death: potassium cyanide
Apothecary: put this in any liquid thing you will, And drink it off, and if you had the strength Of twenty men, it would dispatch you straight. Act V, Scene i

10 Romeo and Juliet’s death: potassium cyanide
Cyanide makes the cells of an organism unable to use oxygen, primarily through the inhibition of cytochrome c oxidase. Inhalation of high concentrations of cyanide causes a coma with seizures, apnea, and cardiac arrest, with death following in a matter of minutes Cyanide, in the form of pure liquid prussic acid (a historical name for hydrogen cyanide), was a favored suicide agent of the Third Reich. It was used to commit suicide by Erwin Rommel (1944), after being accused of conspiring against Hitler; Adolf Hitler's wife, Eva Braun (1945); and by Nazi leaders Joseph Goebbels (1945), Heinrich Himmler (1945), possibly Martin Bormann (1945), and Hermann Göring (1946). Adolf Hitler himself bit a cyanide capsule while simultaneously firing his pistol into his right temple (1945).

11 Poisons in Hamlet 1. Ear of Hamlet’s Father: henbane
It was historically used in combination with other plants, such as mandrake, deadly nightshade, and datura as an anaesthetic potion, as well as for its psychoactive properties in "magic brews." These psychoactive properties include visual hallucinations and a sensation of flight. Its usage was originally in continental Europe, Asia and the Arabic world, though it did spread to England in the Middle Ages. The use of Henbane by the ancient Greeks was documented by Pliny. The plant, recorded as Herba Apollinaris, was used to yield oracles by the priestesses of Apollo. Henbane can be toxic, even fatal, to animals in low doses, and incidents of poisoning people are also reported. Hyoscyamine, scopolamine, and other tropane alkaloids have been found in the foliage and seeds of the plant. Common effects of henbane ingestion in humans include hallucinations, dilated pupils, restlessness, and flushed skin. Less common symptoms such as tachycardia, convulsions, vomiting, hypertension, hyperpyrexia and ataxia have all been noted.

12 Henbane or Hyposcyamus niger

13 2. Sword and Drink Poisons for Hamlet, Laertes and Gertrude: Aconitum
Marked symptoms may appear almost immediately, usually not later than one hour, and "with large doses death is almost instantaneous." Death usually occurs within 2 to 6 hours in fatal poisoning (20 to 40 mL of tincture may prove fatal). The initial signs are gastrointestinal including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. There is followed by a sensation of burning, tingling, and numbness in the mouth and face, and of burning in the abdomen. In severe poisonings pronounced motor weakness occurs and cutaneous sensations of tingling and numbness spread to the limbs. Cardiovascular features include hypotension, bradycardia, sinus tachycardia, and ventricular arrhythmias. Other features may include sweating, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, headache, and confusion. The main causes of death are ventricular arrhythmias and asystole, paralysis of the heart or of the respiratory center. The only post-mortem signs are those of asphyxia.

14 Aconitum or Wolfsbane

15 Aconitum callibotryon

16 Aconitum

17 Other Famous Poisons: Asp venom

18 Snake venom consists of proteins, enzymes, substances with a cytotoxic effect, neurotoxins and coagulants. Phosphodiesterases are used to interfere with the prey's cardiac system, mainly to lower the blood pressure. Phospholipase A2 causes hemolysis by lysing the phospholipid cell membranes of red blood cells.[3] Snake venom inhibits cholinesterase to make the prey lose muscle control. Hyaluronidase increases tissue permeability to increase the rate that other enzymes are absorbed into the prey's tissues. Amino acid oxidases and proteases are used for digestion. Amino acid oxidase also triggers some other enzymes and is responsible for the yellow color of the venom of some species. Snake venom often contains ATPase, an enzyme which catalyzes the hydrolysis of ATP to ADP and a free phosphate ion, or to AMP and diphosphate.[4][5]

19 Hemlock: Think Socrates
Conium contains the pyridine alkaloids coniine, N-methylconiine, conhydrine, pseudoconhydrine and γ-coniceine (or g-coniceïne), which is the precursor of the other hemlock alkaloids. The most important and toxic of these is coniine, which has a chemical structure similar to nicotine. Coniine is a neurotoxin, which disrupts the workings of the central nervous system and is toxic to humans and all classes of livestock. Ingestion in any quantity can result in respiratory collapse and death. Coniine causes death by blocking the neuromuscular junction in a manner similar to curare; this results in an ascending muscular paralysis with eventual paralysis of the respiratory muscles which results in death due to lack of oxygen to the heart and brain. Death can be prevented by artificial ventilation until the effects have worn off 48–72 hours later. For an adult the ingestion of more than 100 mg of coniine (approximately 6 to 8 fresh leaves, or a smaller dose of the seeds or root) may be fatal. Hemlock: Think Socrates

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