Category: names from Shakespeare
By Linda Rosenkrantz
Some names scream out their Shakespearean heritage–think Hamlet, Macbeth, Desdemona, Ophelia, Iago, Romeo–while others carry a more subtle reference to their ties to the Bard. We’re looking here towards the bottoms of the cast lists, at the secondary characters who might be a servant or a follower or friend. So to avoid Romeo always being followed by Juliet, you can pick one of these that have a less pronounced Shakespearean tie.
Angus—a good old Scottish name from “the Scottish play,” Macbeth, in which he is a general and the thane of Glamis, influenced by the prophesies of the three witches. Also the god of love and youth in Irish myth, Angus is especially popular in Australia now, thanks to AC/DC rocker Angus Young.
Yes, today is the Ides of March (which really just means the mid-point of the month), yet unless you’re Julius Caesar, there’s no reason to beware. But Julius Caesar does bring to mind William Shakespeare, so this seems like a good time to look at Shakespeare names beyond Juliet and Jessica, Richard and Romeo, to some of the more underappreciated names used by the Bard in his comedies and tragedies.
Some of Shakespeare’s most distinctive, most villainous names will probably always be verboten, such as Iago, which on the surface would seem to have the makings of a perfect I-beginning, o-ending name. Other baddies, though, such as Cassius and Edmund and Regan, have escaped having their reputations permanently ruined.
So here are the Nameberry Picks for the 12 best underused Shakespeare names.
Balthasar/Balthazar—Balthasar was the name assumed by Portia when disguised as a boy in The Merchant of Venice, as well as being one of the three Wise Men of the Orient who brought gifts to the infant Jesus. Balthazar has been associated in modern times with the acting member of the Getty family, who has a son with the equally Shakespearean name of Cassius.
Cassio— Cassio is a young and handsome Florentine solider who serves under Othello, Cassio actually being his last name—his first being Michael–an implausible choice for an Italian. Cassio just might conceivable slipstream along in the wake of the related, growing-in-popularity Cassius.
Last week we unearthed twenty long lost literary girls’ names–some of which have rarely been used outside of books, plays and poetry– and now we turn to the boys’ equivalents. The diverse sources of these creative baby names range from Shakespeare to Stoppard– and be aware that, as before, the characters who bear them are not necessarily paragons of virtue.
ARKADY. A Russian saint’s name from the Greek meaning “from Arcadia,” it belongs to a genteel character in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons and a much less benign one in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and is also a key figure in Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith.
BALTHAZAR, the name of one of the three wise men, is scattered throughout literature, from Shakespeare ‘s plays to the rambunctious title character of J P Donleavy’s The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B.
CLAUDIO. A Shakespearean favorite, appearing in both Much Ado About Nothing and Measure for Measure; it’s a Latin clan name meaning “lame”–one of those literal meanings that can be ignored in the modern world.
DUNCAN. Duncan Idaho is the brave hero of Frank Herbert‘s classic fantasy series Dune. It’s a Scottish name meaning “brown warrior” and a nameberry favorite, despite some people’s association with Dunkin’ Donuts.