Baby & Toddler

The Best Shakespeare-Inspired
Baby Names

by Jennifer Ridgway

Photo Credit: Tatyana Aleksieva Photography, Moment Open Collection/ Getty Images

As we approach the 400th Anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death (April 23, 2016), we reflect on all the great characters in his works. Shakespeare’s plays are rife with beautiful, meaningful names that would make for great present-day baby names. Of course, you could always be straightforward and name your child Will or William — but if you’re looking for a more subtle tribute, we combed through his bibliography to find names of characters worthy of the honor.

  • Girls

  • Cordelia

    In King Lear, Cordelia is not only Lear’s favorite daughter, but she is a truthful and loving one. The name is of uncertain origin, but it might have come from the Latin root cor, which means “heart.”

  • Viola

    Although her true name isn’t spoken until the very end of the play, Viola is the heroine of The Twelfth Night. Bonus for anyone looking for names for boy/girl twins: Viola has a twin brother named Sebastian.

  • Beatrice

    Perhaps my favorite Shakespearean character, Beatrice is the wise, witty romantic interest from Much Ado About Nothing. The name derives from the Latin name Beatrix, which means “she who makes happy.” The name is also known from The Divine Comedy, in which Beatrice is Dante’s guide through Heaven.

  • Rose

    I’m cheating a bit with this one since it’s not technically a character, but you can’t get much more Shakespearean than “Rose.” In one of Shakespeare’s most famous lines, Juliet — of Romeo &  Juliet — says, “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.” While we now typically associate the name with the beautiful flower, its original meaning ties back to a Germanic name combining “fame” and “sort.”

  • Boys

  • Peter

    All you meta-fans out there might appreciate this one — Peter Quince is the writer and director of the craftsmen’s play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Often portrayed as a bookish sort, some believe that Peter is also a surrogate for Shakespeare himself.

  • Ferdinand

    Prince Ferdinand of The Tempest  is an affectionate and earnest character, and heir to the throne of Naples.  In its roots, the name means “daring, brave.” Fun fact: It is also the name of notable Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan, the leader of the first round-the-world expedition in the 16th century.

  • Henry

    Shakespeare wrote multiple plays depicting several generations of war that all featured characters named Henry, including two Henry IV plays (Parts 1 and 2), Henry V, and three Henry VI  plays (Parts 1, 2, and 3). Henry V contains one of Shakespeare’s most beloved titular characters. Nicknamed “Hal” and “Harry,” King Henry V is known for his inspiring speeches, particularly his St. Crispin’s Day Speech. Henry is heroic and ultimately victorious.

  • Benvolio

    While some may consider him to be a less-than-consequential character in Romeo & Juliet, Benvolio is a voice of stability and tries to be a good guy. As Romeo’s cousin he acts as peacemaker, confidant, and problem solver. This is a great way to honor Shakespeare’s famous play without using the doomed lovers. If Benvolio is too antiquated, you could always call him “Ben.”

  • Unisex

  • Robin

    Robin Goodfellow, a.k.a. Puck, is the witty, mischievous sprite in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Robin also harkens both Robin Hood, who gave to the poor, and the bird, which signals Spring and renewal.

What are your favorite names from Shakespeare works? Let us know in the comments section below!

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