GETTING RID OF UNWANTED GUESTS. Cruel fun in the Renaissance.
Here is the scenario: You can’t get around inviting your in-laws for dinner, but you want to make sure they leave really early. Follow the instructions of Giambattista della Porta, the Italian scientist known as the Professor of Secrets.
Sprinkle food with powdered leaves of cuckoo pine (arum), and your guests will start drooling copiously. Cut up harp strings and strew on hot meat. The little wires will writhe like worms and gross out your guests.
Breathe garlic on your female guests, and their make-up will yellow. Well, maybe that only works with Renaissance make-up made of white lead and mercury. In any case, breathing garlic on unwanted guests is always a good idea.
Alternatively you could have some wicked fun with them. A bit of belladonna dissolved in water will drive them temporarily insane. It is a most pleasant spectacle to behold their crazy whims and visions. Just don’t feed them too much belladonna, which will make them sleep for four days.
If your unwanted guests OD on belladonna and stay overnight, you may want to put extract of boiled chameleon into their bathwater and watch them turn green.
The Borgias, I understand, were more radical. They killed unwanted guests. Here is the recipe for the poison they used:
Catch a bear and make him swallow arsenic. He will start foaming at the mouth. Collect the foam on a silver plate. Bottle and use as needed.
Not sure I could handle the bear part. Besides, am I missing something here? Why didn’t they give the arsenic directly to their guests?