His use of names

Take a look at how Shakespeare uses the names he gives characters.   We know nowadays, for example, that the King in Hamlet and the Duke in Measure for Measure are called Claudius and Vincentio respectively. 

But we never get to hear their names during the course of the plays (which may come as something of a surprise in the case of Claudius, at least – so inured are we to names having been attached to characters).  Such names may have been accessible to the actors; in the case of Claudius the name appears in the printed speech designations.  

Or later to readers; the list of dramatis personae at the end of Measure for Measure in the First Folio, for example, gives the Duke’s name.  But in the days before programmes or cast lists, such names may never have been revealed to audiences at all.   So why the naming?  Are such names particularly geared to benefit the actor?

There is the interesting issue also of when names are first heard in the course of a play.  The actors may know them at the beginning of the play or on the characters’ first entrances, but playgoers would not have known for example what Viola was called until she is recognised by her brother Sebastian at the end of the play.  She herself uses her name to acknowledge her sexual identity only once she can be publicly female....  

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Naming (3300 words)

Shakespeare's Acting (2400 words)

His Use of Names (including Thee and You) (1400 words)

Degrees in Society (5300 words)

The A to Z of NAMES (92,000 words; over 500 entries)

Named by Shakespeare
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