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Category: names from plays

ibsen2

By Linda Rosenkrantz

Last week was the birthday of Henrik Ibsen, the towering nineteenth century Norwegian playwright and poet who was one of the founders of Modernism in the theater.  Known for his realistic exploration of controversial social issues, his plays A Doll’s House  and Hedda Gabler are considered feminist landmarks.

Ibsen‘s twenty-six frequently produced plays are populated by a wide range of characters.  Those listed below offer an interesting selection of Norwegian names of that period (though a few are imports from other cultures), from the familiar (Ingrid, Nora, Finn) to those that are less known.

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posted by: histornamia View all posts by this author
restoration

By Amy of histornamia

While the Elizabethan/Jacobean playwright William Shakespeare has had a long influence on the names of children, his Restoration successors haven’t had as much impact on the name game. But when looking through character lists of these Restoration comedies, written between 1660-1710, there are some fabulous names to be found, some that have been heard of since, like Amanda, Julia and Sylvia, and some that are extremely rare. Here are thirteen of the more interesting feminine names from the most popular Restoration comedies of the day.

Amaryllis – As seen in 1671’s The Rehearsal, which was published anonymously, though prominent courtier, George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, was most likely the writer. The name Amaryllis is of Greek origin and means ‘to sparkle’.

Araminta – As seen in 1693’s The Old Bachelor by William Congreve, the name is actually a disguise for the character of Sylvia. Araminta is a hybrid of the names Arabella and Aminta as well as having the Greek meaning of ‘defender’.

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alice

Novelist and playwright Joanne Lessner, author of Pandora’s Bottle and Critical Mass, wonders whether she names her characters….or they name themselves.

In my alternate life (the one where I’m a jet-setting opera singer based in London), I have a clutch of children with fabulous names. The girls are called Tessa, Lily, Francesca and Imogen, and the boys are Sebastian, Phineas, Jasper and Colin. In my actual life, I’m a New York-based writer and performer with two kids who got my first round draft picks: Julian and Phoebe. But as a writer, surely I can pepper my work with those other glorious, un-exercised gems, right?

Well, not exactly.

J.K. Rowling has famously said that Harry Potter just strolled into her head, fully formed. I understand what she means. My characters have a habit of knocking on my mental door wearing nametags. Even names that carry hints of significance are often a chicken and egg situation. For example, the hero of my novel, Pandora’s Bottle, is named Sy Hampton. I don’t recall consciously choosing his name, but one reader asked if it was meant to illustrate a “sigh” of disappointment (he’s having a mid-life crisis.) Another suggested that “Hampton” indicates a yearning for the finer things in life epitomized by those exclusive Long Island enclaves. Those are certainly reasonable assumptions, but I can’t say honestly whether Sy grew more melancholy and striving because of his name, or if, when I named him, my subconscious instinctively know where he was heading. However, I do know that when my editor floated the possibility of changing his name – feeling that Sy suggested someone of a slightly older generation – I just couldn’t.

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literary3

I remember how, when I first read the novels of Evelyn Waugh and the plays of George Bernard Shaw, a whole new universe of names opened up for me. A world of sophisticated, eccentric, kind of uppity and veddy veddy Victorian and Edwardian  British names, many of which I had never heard before, but instantly became enamored with.

The comic novels of Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse and the plays (and novel) of Oscar Wilde and Shaw are still a good place to start if you’re looking for a name with a certain elegance, gentility, swank—and sometimes a bit of quirkiness as well.

GIRLS

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shakespeare2

The plays of William Shakespeare are a mother lode of wonderful names, rich and diverse, drawing from the history and mythology of ancient Greece and Rome, tales of Renaissance Italy, the royal courts and noble estates of England and Scotland–not to mention those that sprung from the playwright’s imagination.

We were inspired by Kat’s recent name board comment on the “Underrated Baby Names” question of the week to revisit the subject of Shakespearean names, starting from her excellent list and then digging a little deeper into some of the major and more minor characters that may not be as strongly associated with the Bard, but still boast some Shakespearean cred and cachet.

Kat’s suggestions:

GIRLS

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