"What's in a name?": theorizing an etymological dictionary of Shakespearean characters.

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Robert C. Beshere (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Christopher Hodgkins

Abstract: Just like Shakespeare's seemingly endless play on the word "will" in his sonnets, the names of his characters themselves hold context clues in their linguistic, historical, mythological, and teleological roots. These context clues inform readers, scholars, and even directors and actors of elements of the characters' personae, behaviors, and possible involvement in the plot. The dissertation will propose that Shakespeare reverses a derivation of character in which authors first determine a form for a character’s name that does not necessarily reflect the character’s purpose. Shakespeare, instead, creates a purpose-driven form, in which his characters’ names reflect their individual functions in the plots. The characters' names are journeys for themselves, whether they earn the name's meanings or, not unlike the great tragic figures, fall from the grace, glory, and power that has been afforded to and associated with their names. All the while, Shakespeare is investing in the "psychology of the audience," having the audience witness and join the journey rather than dictate the journey's destination at the outset. Thus, Juliet's inquiry -- "What's in a name?" -- carries much more than just a bemoaning of unfortunate and unlucky circumstances. Her inquiry inadvertently reveals the overwhelming potency of names, an indication that Shakespeare himself held nomenclature and the process of naming as a paramount practice in determining character. This dissertation theorizes a dictionary that categorizes all of Shakespeare’s characters and explores the etymological roots of each, as well as cultural, historical, mythological, and religious allusions that the names contain.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2009
Shakespeare, William, $d 1564-1616 $x Characters $x Names.
Shakespeare, William, $d 1564-1616 $x Criticism and interpretation.

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