Category: baby names from plays
True story: I have never once wanted to get revenge on someone. I don’t have any enemies and I strive to be kind to everyone; I remind myself there’s always another side to the story and try my best to keep that in mind when something doesn’t go my way. Because of this, or perhaps in spite of it, I’ve always been fascinated with stories about revenge and why someone would choose to go down that slippery slope.
Several months ago, when I answered a call for short stories to be part of a new charity anthology of Shakespeare retellings, the only play I even considered working with was Othello—the ultimate tale of revenge. A perpetual favorite of mine, I turned Othello into The Scarf, which brings the familiar characters to a modern high school during a student government election. Golden boy Omar is poised to win the presidency, the ultimate power position in the school, but just hours before the results are to be announced, he confronts his girlfriend Darcy about the mounting evidence that she’s cheating on him with his running mate. With a missing scarf as the seemingly final nail in the coffin of their relationship, stage manager Emerson begins to put together their pieces of the story that isn’t as it appears on the surface.
Since that time, of course, there have been countless more shows with zillions of names of characters belting it out on the Great White Way, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. There are so many of the former that it’s been hard to narrow it down to a dozen or so Nameberry Faves, but here are our final picks:
Adelaide—In Guys & Dolls, Adelaide is an endearing Hot Boxclub dancer with a perpetual psychosomatic cold due to the frustrations of a 14-year engagement. Not surprisingly, Aussie Rachel Griffiths chose this rapidly climbing Australian place name for her daughter; Katherine Heigl spelled it Adalaide.
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.
In my alternate life (the one where I’m a jet-setting opera singer based in London), I have a clutch of children with fabulous names. The girls are called Tessa, Lily, Francesca and Imogen, and the boys are Sebastian, Phineas, Jasper and Colin. In my actual life, I’m a New York-based writer and performer with two kids who got my first round draft picks: Julian and Phoebe. But as a writer, surely I can pepper my work with those other glorious, un-exercised gems, right?
Well, not exactly.
J.K. Rowling has famously said that Harry Potter just strolled into her head, fully formed. I understand what she means. My characters have a habit of knocking on my mental door wearing nametags. Even names that carry hints of significance are often a chicken and egg situation. For example, the hero of my novel, Pandora’s Bottle, is named Sy Hampton. I don’t recall consciously choosing his name, but one reader asked if it was meant to illustrate a “sigh” of disappointment (he’s having a mid-life crisis.) Another suggested that “Hampton” indicates a yearning for the finer things in life epitomized by those exclusive Long Island enclaves. Those are certainly reasonable assumptions, but I can’t say honestly whether Sy grew more melancholy and striving because of his name, or if, when I named him, my subconscious instinctively know where he was heading. However, I do know that when my editor floated the possibility of changing his name – feeling that Sy suggested someone of a slightly older generation – I just couldn’t.