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Literary Baby Names: Happy Birthday, Mr. Shakespeare

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Today we’re celebrating the natal day of William Shakespeare, and in his honor  we thought that instead of reiterating the usual list of familiar major characters—Romeo and Juliet, Beatrice and Benedick et al—we’d pay our tribute to the Bard of Avon with the less obvious names of some of the more obscure, less Shakespearean-sounding characters.

GIRLS

AudreyAs You Like It. Reflecting the retro radiance of Audrey Hepburn, her name is now in the Top 50—the highest it has ever been.

CharmianAntony and Cleopatra.  Charmian has been chosen occasionally by Shakespeare-loving parents and, after all, you can’t go wrong with a name that starts with charm!

FranciscaMeasure for Measure.  A vowel switch on Francesca that brings it closer to the male Francisco.  Could cause confusion, though.

HermioneThe Winter’s Tale. Before there was J. K. Rowling’s Hermione Granger, there was William Shakespeare’s Queen of Sicily—both combine to make the name more accessible than it once was.

LaviniaTitus Andronicus.  A pretty Victorian-sounding choice that actually harkens back to classical mythology, with literary references from Shakespeare to The Hunger Games.  Downton Abbey gave it further boost. Perhaps the next Matilda?

LucianaThe Comedy of Errors. A lovely Lucy elaboration that is well used in Italia but sorely neglected here.  It was used for her daughter by Carnie Wilson. .

MargeryThe Merchant of Venice. The nursery-rhyme favorite Margery, which has been MIA since 1958, was a Top 20 name in the 1920’s, while the Scottish Marjorie version has fared somewhat better.   Margery may have been gone long enough to be ready for reappraisal.

PatienceHenry VIII.  One of the less frequently used virtue names, possibly because of its passive connotation, but patience and calm can be highly commendable qualities.  Common in the seventeenth century, Patience was the eponymous heroine of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.

PaulinaThe Winter’s Tale.  A romantic Spanish name,  probably the most stylish of the Paul feminizations, Paulina has been on the US list since 1994.  Charlotte Brontë used it in her novel Villette, with the nickname Polly.

RosalineLove’s Labour’s Lost.  Of all the myriad offshoots of Rose, this is one of the most unusual.  When spelled Rosaleen, it’s an Anglicization of the Irish Róisín.

TamoraTitus Andronicus.  A more distinctive cousin of Tamara, associated with popular teen fantasy fiction writer Tamora Pierce, also a character in Wreck-It Ralph.

UrsulaMuch Ado About Nothing. A name with a particularly rich literary heritage, not only via Shakespeare but also Ben Johnson, Sir Walter Scott, Longfellow and D. H. Lawrence; Ursula is a saint’s name that’s starting to be reconsidered.

BOYS

CaiusTitus Andronicus.  One of several intriguing ancient Latin names in this period play, including Lucius, Quintus, Martius, Demetrius, and Titus itself.

Cassio Othello. Cassio is actually the character’s last name—his first being Michael.  But we could see it possibly slipstreaming along in the wake of the related, growing-in-popularity Cassius.

CleonPericlesA strong ancient Greek hero name which fortunately lacks the fustiness of many others.

FabianTwelfth NightOne of the original 1960’s teen idol names, Fabian has left that image behind in pop culture history and is seen now as a strong and attractive name with a papal connection.

OwenHenry IV, Part I .  A staunch Nameberry fave, this strong and appealing Irish version of John (aka Eoin), jumped into the Top 50 in 2010 and is on track to move even higher.

IsidoreTimon of Athens. Isadora is starting to be considered as an alternative to Isabella but her twin-name is nowhere in sight. With surprising origins in ancient Greek Isidore is the name of the patron saint of Madrid.

LysanderA Midsummer Night’s Dream. Attached to a character more major than some of the others on this list, Lysander is a distinctive Greek name that could be thought of as a more creative cousin of Alexander.

PhiloAntony and Cleopatra. A handsome Greek name that we’ve always thought had a lot of potentialas a possible successor to Milo, with its historic Greek roots, its sweet meaning of ‘loved’ and its energetic o-ending.  Clint Eastwood played Philos in two early films.

TarquinRape of LucretiaTarquin appears in this narrative poem of Shakespeare’s and is also referred to in two of the plays.  A handsome name with dramatic flair that was chosen by Laurence Olivier for his first child.

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