Reference > Brewer’s Dictionary > Mandrake.

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
The root of the mandrag’ora often divides itself in two, and presents a rude appearance of a man. In ancient times human figures were often cut out of the root, and wonderful virtues ascribed to them. It was used to produce fecundity in women (Gen. XXX. 14–16). Some mandrakes cannot be pulled from the earth without producing fatal effects, so a cord used to be fixed to the root, and round a dog’s neck, and the dog being chased drew out the mandrake and died. Another superstition is that when the mandrake is uprooted it utters a scream, in explanation of which Thomas Newton, in his Herball to the Bible, says, “It is supposed to be a creature having life, engendered under the earth of the seed of some dead person put to death for murder.”   1
“Shrieks like mandrakes’ torn out of the earth.”
Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, iv. 3.
   Mandrakes called love-apples. From the old notion that they ex&cgrave;ited amorous inclinations; hence Venus is called Mandragori’tis, and the Emperor Julian, in his epistles, tells Calix’ens that he drank its juice nightly as a love-potion.   2
   He has eaten mandrake. Said of a very indolent and sleepy man, from the narcotic and stupefying properties of the plant, well known to the ancients.   3
“Give me to drink mandragora . .
That I might sleep out this great gap of time
My Antony is away.”
Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra, i. 5.
   Mandrake. Another superstition connected with this plant is that a small dose makes a person vain of his beauty, and conceited; but that a large dose makes him an idiot.   4



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