Today we’re celebrating the natal day of William Shakespeare, and in his honor we thought that instead of reiterating the usual list of familiar major characters—Romeo and Juliet, Beatrice and Benedick et al—we’d pay our tribute to the Bard of Avon with the less obvious names of some of the more obscure, less Shakespearean-sounding characters.
Lavinia—Titus Andronicus. A pretty Victorian-sounding choice that actually harkens back to classical mythology, with literary references from Shakespeare to The Hunger Games. Downton Abbey gave it further boost. Perhaps the next Matilda?
Margery—The Merchant of Venice. The nursery-rhyme favorite Margery, which has been MIA since 1958, was a Top 20 name in the 1920’s, while the Scottish Marjorie version has fared somewhat better. Margery may have been gone long enough to be ready for reappraisal.
Patience –Henry VIII. One of the less frequently used virtue names, possibly because of its passive connotation, but patience and calm can be highly commendable qualities. Common in the seventeenth century, Patience was the eponymous heroine of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.
Paulina—The Winter’s Tale. A romantic Spanish name, probably the most stylish of the Paul feminizations, Paulina has been on the US list since 1994. Charlotte Brontë used it in her novel Villette, with the nickname Polly.
Ursula—Much Ado About Nothing. A name with a particularly rich literary heritage, not only via Shakespeare but also Ben Johnson, Sir Walter Scott, Longfellow and D. H. Lawrence; Ursula is a saint’s name that’s starting to be reconsidered.
Isidore—Timon of Athens. Isadora is starting to be considered as an alternative to Isabella but her twin-name is nowhere in sight. With surprising origins in ancient Greek Isidore is the name of the patron saint of Madrid.
Lysander—A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Attached to a character more major than some of the others on this list, Lysander is a distinctive Greek name that could be thought of as a more creative cousin of Alexander.
Philo—Antony and Cleopatra. A handsome Greek name that we’ve always thought had a lot of potentialas a possible successor to Milo, with its historic Greek roots, its sweet meaning of ‘loved’ and its energetic o-ending. Clint Eastwood played Philos in two early films.
Tarquin—Rape of Lucretia. Tarquin appears in this narrative poem of Shakespeare’s and is also referred to in two of the plays. A handsome name with dramatic flair that was chosen by Laurence Olivier for his first child.
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