By Linda Rosenkrantz
There are a lot of surprisingly cool character names hiding in Shakespeare’s plays. You only have to look beyond the more obvious Romeo and Juliet, Caesar and Cleopatra, Hamlet and Horatio. Just among the male characters, we find many attractive and usable options if we move past the title and leading players to those lower on the cast lists.
Here are 18 prime examples of literary names that don’t broadcast their Shakespearean heritage , from Angus to Piers.
Cool Character Names: Boys of the Bard
Angus—one of the Thanes in Macbeth
As Scottish as bagpipes and haggis, Angus got some modern pop cred via Angus Young of the seminal rock band AC/DC. Not rated nationally since 1948, it’s 164 on Nameberry and in the Top 100 in Australia, New Zealand and, of course, Scotland.
Balthasar—used four times by Shakespeare, for two servants, a singer and a merchant; he sometimes spelled it Balthazar
The evocative name of one of the Three Wise Men has post-Bard literary ties to Balzac, Durrell and Donleavy. Balthazar is #390 on Nameberry.
Cassius—a major character in Julius Caesar who incites the conspiracy against Caesar
Despite its antagonist role in Shakespeare, this ancient Roman name is a modern hit, #596 nationally, an impressive #36 on NB and the baby name choice of several celebs.
Cato—a soldier in Julius Caesar
This name of a noted Roman statesman has a lively modern sound, bolstered by its appearance in The Hunger Games. Cato is 732 on Nameberry.
Corin—a shepherd in the Forest of Arden in As You Like It
A neglected and unusual name that could make a gentle alternative to Colin.
Dion—a courtier who delivers the oracle from Delphos in The Winter’s Tale
A sometimes short form of Dionysius, Dion got a 50s doo-wop vibe via Dion and the Belmonts, now has regained its contemporary cool, bringing it to #315 on Nameberry.
Duncan –the King of Scotland in Macbeth
Jaunty and friendly Duncan is a Scottish royal name that has appeared in the Dune books and as one of the triplets in A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s currently #419 on Nameberry.
Edmund—the main antagonist in King Lear and the Duke of York in Richard II
The most sophisticated of the Ed names is loved on Nameberry, where it has reached Top 300 status.
Flavius—appears in Julius Caesar, Macbeth and Timon of Athens
Another ancient Latin name that has seen new light in both the Hunger Games and The Vampire Chronicles. With the renewed interest in this genre of names, it definitely could find some fans.
Grey—a son of Queen Elizabeth, wife of Edward IV, in Richard III
Spelled both Grey and Gray, this is a color/middle/unisex name du jour, both versions growing in popularity. For boys: Grey is 442 on NB, Gray is 549.
Griffith—an usher in Henry VIII
The classic Welsh Griffith hasn’t had as much appreciation as trendy brother Griffin, but it does share the cool nickname Griff.
Humphrey—a brother of Hal in Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V
Has long been associated with Hollywood Golden Age icon Bogart—is that a plus or a minus? Occasionally heard on British TV shows, it’s long been off the SSA list, but is a perhaps surprising 668 on Nameberry.
Lennox—another Thane in Macbeth
A strong Scottish surname name boasting the popular X-ending (thanks, Brangelina boys Maddox, Pax and Knox).
Oberon—King of the Fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Often seen as a fairy king in legend and song, we think Oberon is a lot stronger than that and worthy of consideration, as is similarly pronounced Auberon. On Nameberry, Oberon is #703.
Octavius—The title character’s nephew in Julius Caesar, one of the three leaders of Rome in Antony and Cleopatra
Once used specifically for an eighth child, it could now make a distinguished appellation for your first or second, joining increasingly appreciated sister name Octavia.
Owen—a Welsh warrior in Henry IV, Part 1
In the past few years, Owen has zoomed up into the Top 25 after jumping 400 places between 2993 and 2003, perhaps helped along by Owen Wilson. There have been fictional Owens in everything from Grey’s Anatomy to Star Wars.
Philo—a Roman soldier in Antony and Cleopatra
Could Philo be the next Milo? A Greek name with a sweet meaning (“loving”), it’s now at #876 on NB.
Piers— a nobleman in Richard II
This old version of Peter has never made much of an impact in the US but it has a lot going for it. A character name in Harry Potter, it’s very much associated with British TV personality Piers Morgan today. Piers is #843 on Nameberry.
Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pam Satran of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. In addition to contributing stories on trends and celebrity naming, she guides the editorial content and manages the Nameberry Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can follow her personally at Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.