22 Secret Shakespeare Names: From Angus to Varro


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.

Angusa 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.

Caiusattached to several Shakespearean characters, Caius is also a saint’s name and a Twilight vampire, and offers the popular modern nickname Cai.

Camillothe name of an honest Sicilian nobleman in The Winter’s Tale. We’ve adopted his female counterpart Camilla, so why not Camillo?

Cassio—the name of Othello’s young and handsome lieutenant makes a strong o-ending member of the Cassius family. But is it too reminiscent of the keyboard brand?

CharmianThe Egyptian queen’s maid in Antony and Cleopatra makes a charming, underused possibility. Charmian was also the name of Jack London’s wife.

Corin—The name of a philosophical shepherd in As You Like It, Corin is a soft and gentle boys’ name that also appears in Chronicles of Narnia.

DionIn The Winter’s Tale, Dion is a lord of Sicily. A Greek name related to the godlike Dio, and a shortened form of names like Dionysius, Dion has a hip vibe, also associated with early rock n’ roll. The Shakespearean female Dionyza is found in Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

Dolabella—Looking for a completely unique ‘bella’ name? This ancient Roman surname name appears as a (male) follower of Caesar in Antony and Cleopatra.

DuncanThe King of Scotland in Macbeth, who meets a disastrous fate, was based on a real Scottish king. The jaunty Duncan appears in literature from The Last of the Mohicans to Dune to Lemony Snicket, but is sadly neglected in the baby name world.

FabianIn Twelfth Night, Fabian is a servant of Olivia’s and he’s also a Harry Potter character. An ancient saint/papal name, Fabian is on the upswing in the US, at Number 312, and very popular in German, ranking 27th.

Fenton—An undiscovered surname with the appealing nickname Fen, Fenton has appeared as the Hardy Boys’ dad and as an alias on Castle, as well as a suitor in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Florizel—In The Winter’s Tale, Florizel is the King of Bohemia’s only son and heir. Could be a new unisex Flor– name.

JamyJamy is a Scottish captain in Henry V. An unusually-spelled nickname for James? Jamy is also occasionally used for girls, and is the name of several villages in Poland.

LuceLuce is a servant to Adriana in The Comedy of Errors. More common as a surname, Luce is also used as a feminine first in France and Italy, as a variant of Lucia and Lucie.

Lucio –a friend of Claudio in Measure for Measure. Though the feminine version Lucia has long been a US resident, Lucio doesn’t even have a green card. It is the Italian and Spanish version of the Latin Lucius, and has several distinguished namesakes in the worlds of art and sports.

MontanoMontano is the Governor of Cyprus in Othello. An o-ending switch on the state name.

PhiloPhilo (along with Demetrius) is one of the Romans following Antony in Antony and Cleopatra. A Greek name with a sweet meaning (“loving”), and one borne by Clint Eastwood in two films, we are big Philo fans and could see it as a less familiar alternative to Milo.

PiersSir Piers of Exton is responsible for the death of King Richard in Richard II. This medieval variant of Peter has never really made any impact in this country, but now that it’s been familiarized by Piers Morgan and Harry Potter’s Piers Polkiss, that could change.

Quintusthe name of Titus Andronicus’s son in that tragedy, and one of only about twenty male names used in ancient Rome, Quintus is one of the more usable of the Roman numeral names.

Rosaline—This medieval variant of Rosalind (a better known Shakespeare name) was used by the Bard in both Romeo and Juliet and Love’s Labour’s Lost. One of the more unusual Rose girls.

SilviusIn As You Like It, Silvius is a shepherd in love with Phebe. A sylvan Latin name that might appeal to parents attracted to ancient Roman names.

VarroVarro is a guard in Brutus’s tent in Julius Caesar, as well as a creditor of the protagonist inTimon of Athens. This is a noble Spanish surname that has an appealing air of bravado.

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

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