Cantarella was most probably a variation of arsenic or cantharidin powder (made from blister beetles) and alleged by Borgia enemies to have been used by Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo Borgia. Many writers dismiss these allegations as slander.
In later fiction, cantarella was used to make whoever took it fall asleep for four hours. It was as if the person were dead, since they had no detectable pulse. In Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet, Juliet may have taken this poison while waiting for Romeo.
In popular culture
Cantarella (manga), a Japanese manga written and illustrated by You Higuri, is about Cesare Borgia, an Italian aristocrat during the Renaissance. The name of the manga derives from a poison supposedly used by the Borgia family to eliminate their political enemies.
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