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Several torture methods existed in Europe of the Middle Ages, one of which was the pear of anguish. Named after its pear shape, this was one of the most common torture devices used during this historical period. This medieval instrument is also referred to as the choke pear.
The pear of anguish is made of metal, consisting of four leaf-shaped segments that flank each other in a circular form, thus forming the pear shape. At the end of the instrument's handle is a screw that opens these structures. This is the process that inflicts the pain on the victim.
Most people in the Middle Ages used this device for the mouth, slowly expanding the lobes in the orifice to break teeth and induce immense bleeding. Another popular administration, however, was at the opening between the legs. For males, it was the anus. For females, it was the vagina.
Some pears of anguish were designed to target the part of the body at which it was meant for administration. Also, the offense of the individual determined the exact place of enacting torture. For instance, for homosexuals, the choke pear was introduced to the anus. Women who were accused of inducing miscarriage had the instrument shoved in their vagina. Liars or blasphemers got the torture device in the mouth.
The pear of anguish rarely caused death, although other torture methods could be used to hasten such a process. Death usually happened quicker if the instrument was applied to the anus or vagina. Also, death by infection, especially of the intestines, could occur, especially considering that the device was rarely washed after each torture session.
The exact origin of the pear of anguish is unknown. Its earliest mention dates back to a 1639 French publication titled L'Inventaire général de l'histoire des larrons, or General Inventory of the History of Thieves, which credits its invention to a robber who lived during the years of King Henri IV, who ruled France from 1589 to 1610. It also appeared in a few 19th-century publications from the United Kingdom, most notably Francis Grose's 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue; and Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, which the Reverend E. Cobham Brewer originally published in 1870. Today, examples of the pear of anguish can be found in select museums such as the Museum des Lebuser Landes in Zielona Góra, Poland, and the Museum der Festung in Salzburg, Austria.