Category: Shakespearean names
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.
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.
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.
We’re always coming across names on nameberry that we never thought of before, undiscovered gems that suddenly seem attractive and eminently usable for a real live person.
How come everyone flocks to Ava and Aiden, or even Avery and Atticus, when there are so many names like this hiding in plain sight? Beats us. If you truly want something distinctive, there are thousands of such choices to be found just by clicking Unusual Names in the left purple column on most pages of nameberry.
Here, the first in a series of names you might not have considered…..but definitely should.
BATHSHEBA – True, it’s a whole lotta name. But Bathsheba, which means “seventh daughter,” has a rich Biblical and literary history. Short form Sheba walks that intriguing line between being edgy and ready for prime time.
CIRCE – Okay, so she was a siren who turned Odysseus’s men into pigs and lured the poor hero away from the patient Penelope. She also had a lovely name, pronounced sare-see, that would make a standout modern choice. That’s her in the picture above.
KETURAH – Old Testament name – she was Abraham’s wife post-Sarah – that hasn’t been much used in the past few hundred years but has a rhythm and feel that’s appropriate for today. And in case you’re still looking for Biblical names you never heard before, Keturah and Abraham had six sons: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.
LORCAN – If Logan and Aidan are megapopular, can Lorcan be far behind? Somehow, this Irish boys’ name meaning fierce has not achieved the notoriety of its compatriots. But smart parents will look to it as a fresh entry in that trendy crowd.
PALADIN – A French name that means “of the palace,” Paladin was a title of honor given to Charlemagne’s twelve best knights. That’s a name story any little boy would love taking to kindergarten. There was a fifties television show by this name.