Baby Name Ideas from the British Bard

Statue of Shakespeare in London

William Shakespeare had great ideas for names – this is a statue of Shakespeare in London. Image by Longpicman

It’s difficult choosing exactly the right name for your baby, and essential that parents both agree on the final decision. Finding something new and different, something that is unique and inspirational, can seem almost impossible.

Why not take a few ideas from the greatest playwright and poet of all time, William Shakespeare?

Shakespeare lived from 1564 to 1616.  He married Anne Hathaway in 1582 and their daughter, Susanna, was born – a tad early for propriety – just six months after the wedding! Twins, Judith and Hamnet arrived in 1588.

Inspirational Name-Calling

 Shakespeare was more adventurous with names for the heroes, heroines and villains in his plays than he was with the names for his children. Even minor characters, like maids, servants and hangers-on, had fine-sounding names that resonated with audiences, both at the turn of the 16th century and today.

Both the comedies and the tragedies contained exciting, strong parts for women as well as for men. Interestingly, the actors who played females were generally young men and boys. It was a flamboyant profession.


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Many of the names in the plays are still popular today. For example, for boys: Aaron, Duncan, Adrian, Michael. For girls, Katherine, Margaret, Jessica, and the most famous of all, tragic Juliet, heroine of the heartrending love affair of Romeo and Juliet. 

An interesting anecdote, although we are not sure if it’s actually true, is that William wanted some of the fun for himself, and he played Adam in his own comedy, As you Like It. 

Original Names: Something Different for a Boy

However, there are some strong, masculine names that are less common than those mentioned above.

Lennox is a thane in Macbeth – a thane is a sort of feudal baron.

Lewis, a strong masculine name, is the king of France in Henry V Part 3.

Lucio and Claudio are male characters in Measure for Measure. 

Nathanial is a servant in The Taming of the Shrew, which sounds equally attractive in its shorter version, Nathan.

Then there’s a romantic name for a character in The Merchant of Venice, the Italian-sounding Lorenzo.

Marcus ruled Rome after Caesar’s death in Julius Caesar, and an equally well-named character is Fabian, a servant to Olivia in Twelfth Night.

A Unique and Pretty Name for a Girl

Shakespeare’s female names are often both romantic and easy-on-the-ear. Lucetta is Julia’s maid in The Two Gentlemen of Verona while Nerissa is Portia’s maid in The Merchant of Venice.

Mariana is a prettier version of Marianne, and there are two of her, one in Measure for Measure, and one in All’s Well That Ends Well.

Rosalind is the main protagonist in As You Like It, and a sweet variation, Rosaline appears in Love’s Labour’s Lost.  Cordelia aspires to be the most loving and dutiful daughter in the tragedy of King Lear, and Adriana takes her turn in The Comedy of Errors. 

Bianca is a fine foil to Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, while Paulina is a good-hearted character in The Winter’s Tale. 

Shakespearean Baby Names for Boys and Girls

These are just a few of the names of characters from Shakespeare’s work, as appealing to modern-day tastes as they were to audiences in the sixteenth century.

So – even if you’re having twins, there should be a fitting combination somewhere within Shakespeare’s fine collection to help you discover appropriate and beautiful names for your babies.

© Copyright 2013 Janet Cameron: Literature, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Pregnancy
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