Entertainment & Arts

Hero, Puck and William Shakespeare discuss the importance of a name

Shakespeare folio Image copyright AP

The plays of William Shakespeare have endured for centuries, and so have many of the names he created for his characters.

Some of those names are currently popular, and even a few of the more unusual ones still survive today.

For the anniversary of the Bard's death, we spoke to a Hero, a Lysander, a Macbeth and a William Shakespeare to find out how their Shakespearean name has affected their lives.


William Shakespeare - the Bard

Image copyright William Shakespeare

My parents never really explained why they wanted to call me William, but I'm guessing it was because of my father.

My father was also called William, but he was the first William that I am aware of in the family.

I haven't followed in that family tradition, my son is called Peter and my daughter Susan.

I don't remember people commenting on my name when I was growing up.

It was during the War, so I guess people had other things on their minds.

I have wanted to know more about the name and whether our family is connected to the other William Shakespeare.

I looked into the family tree and we think there might be a connection, but we're not sure how legitimate it is.

I've been reading about William Shakespeare, but I don't have any other connections to him.

I did visit Stratford upon Avon once.

I was in a bookshop there and did offer to sit in a corner and sign some books for visiting tourists - I don't think the shop owner got the joke.

William Shakespeare, London


Macbeth - Macbeth

Image copyright Shuna Macbeth Blankenhaus

I have always been surrounded with a multitude of cultures and histories, people and experiences, but the one thing that always stays the same, no matter where I am, is the fact that everybody remembers my Shakespearean middle name.

My lecturers and fellow students seem to enjoy my name, probably because we study literature and it seems like I was destined for this field of study.

When I began studying for my bachelor's degree, in England, there was no question that I would not study English (and German) literature - I am currently studying for my master's in Sweden.

I collect Shakespeare works in various editions and in both English and German, because I am interested in how the works are translated and reissued.

Shakespeare is an important part of my studies, because his works are constantly referenced or referred to in new works about post-colonialism and world literature.

All in all, I love my name and it is very dear to me.

I love the funny reactions I get and the fact that I usually only need to introduce myself once.

I have never had a real bad reaction towards it, unless you count being associated with bad luck because of your name.

Me and my two sisters all share the middle name Macbeth and are, therefore, often referred to as the "three little witches" by the rest of my family.

My friends however tend to call me Lady Macbeth when I get angry or say something snobbish (usually about food).

So, even if it has just been on a light-hearted and fun level, my Shakespearean name has always followed me around.

Shuna Macbeth Blankenhaus, Sweden


Ariel Ophelia - The Tempest and Hamlet

Image copyright Ariel Meadows

My parents obviously love Shakespeare.

Ariel was my father's favourite name and he was always intrigued by the shape-shifting sprite seeking freedom, and Ophelia was my great grandmother's name.

The Shakespearean connection was not lost on my mother, who was a theatre major in university.

It's certainly an icebreaker, and I instantly recognise a Shakespeare fan when introduced if they say: "Ariel, as in The Tempest?" instead of: "Ariel, as in The Little Mermaid?"

It does tickle people to discover I have a Shakespearean middle name as well, and I'm pretty sure it always put me on the right foot with my English teachers and literature professors over the years.

The name certainly gave me a connection to Shakespeare at an early age, and I've taken a lot of interest in his work throughout my life.

When I was very young, around the age of five, my parents took me to Shakespeare in the Park in Savannah, Georgia, US.

I remember very vividly A Midsummer Night's Dream - I enjoyed it so much that we went several times.

I remember being so delighted by the fairies, the mischievous Puck and the humour of it all.

It was magical to me and is still one of my fondest childhood memories.

Later in high school, I recited Ophelia's monologue from Hamlet for an English class.

I still enjoy seeing the odd play or watching my favourite film adaptations.

Naturally, I've reflected on these two characters.

Both were restricted in life: Ariel a slave and Ophelia a young woman in a nobleman's world.

Life got the better of the latter, but she was loved by all and revered in death.

Ariel was determined to succeed and won his freedom in the end.

Both characters have taught me something about strength and kindness.

Ariel Ophelia Meadows, New Zealand


Lysander - A Midsummer Night's Dream

Image copyright Lysander Fockaert

My mother and father went to see A Midsummer Night's Dream, and, afterwards, my mother told my father she wanted to call her next child after Lysander.

There was no discussion, they both loved the name.

Sometimes, when people have only read my name without meeting me in person, they think I am a girl, as my name looks a little bit like Lisanne, which is a common name in Belgium.

Luckily, this hasn't happened too often.

When I introduce myself to new people I often have to repeat my name a few times before they realise they haven't heard it before.

Although it is from A Midsummer Night's Dream, one of the better known plays, it is not well known among average Belgians.

But after I explain that it is from a play by Shakespeare, they are impressed and they tell me it is a great name to have.

A special name like this is always a good conversation starter, and I have the feeling that it triggered my interest for Shakespeare and other literature and cultural activities.

Lysander Fockaert, Belgium


Hero - Much Ado About Nothing

My parents apparently named me partly after the character in Much Ado About Nothing and partly after the Greek myth of Hero and Leander.

My mum loved Shakespeare.

I used to be teased as a child, which wasn't nice, they used to say things like: "Why aren't you called Heroine as you're a girl?"

I didn't like my name then, but I do like it now.

My name is a topic of conversation on first meeting and is rarely forgotten, which can be embarrassing because I am terrible with remembering names.

I notice that Hero is becoming more common as a name.

When I was a child, it was rare in the extreme, (I am mid-50s now).

One of [radio presenter] Myleene Klass's children is called Hero, and I saw a writer from a newspaper mentioned she named her daughter Hero.

Also, my niece is called Hero, and my brother's friend's daughter is called Hero.

My job requires me to email a lot of customers, and they are very often surprised when we then talk on the phone and they find out I am a woman - a bit disconcerting but amusing.

Hero Selwood, Cornwall


Puck - A Midsummer Night's Dream

Image copyright Puck Creemer

When I was young, I didn't like my name because I got bullied a lot by my classmates.

The name Puck was a very strange name at that time.

Usually, dogs were named Puck.

That's why I always thought I was named after an acquaintance's dog.

When I got a little older, I learned that my parents named me after one of Shakespeare's characters.

I felt much better until I found out that Puck was this mean, male goblin from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream.

Personally, I don't have a particular interest in Shakespeare - but my parents do.

My name has affected my life in negative and positive ways.

Kids my age bullied me, but older people always said to me that they think Puck is a great name to have.

Despite the fact I didn't like my name when I was younger, I have really grown to love it.

I now like the fact that I have a connection to Shakespeare, and I'm honoured to have this unique yet famous name.

Puck Creemer, Holland


Portia - The Merchant of Venice

Image copyright Portia Miller

My name certainly gets a lot of attention, but people mispronounce it all the time.

I was named Portia after the heroine in The Merchant of Venice.

However, most people don't know that and ask what it means.

They assume I was named after the car, when I first tell them my name.

Also, they find it difficult to pronounce when they read it, so I get a lot of "Pour-tia".

My parents heard the name when linked with [US talk show host] Ellen DeGeneres, whose wife is the actress Portia de Rossi.

But they later found out more and thought it was classy.

I know the story by Shakespeare, and I do like Portia's character - she stands up for what she believes in.

I think it is a unique name.

Portia Miller, Berkshire


Arden - the maiden name of Shakespeare's mother, and the setting for As You Like It

Image copyright Lynsey Richards

My husband is from Stratford upon Avon, and we live in Belfast.

We lived in Stratford together for a while some years ago and lived on Arden Street in the centre of town.

When we found out we were having a baby girl, we wanted to name her something meaningful but unique.

We love to visit the Forest of of Arden and generally love all things Shakespearean, so we thought Arden would be a perfect choice of name for our little girl.

Luckily, when she arrived, she suited the name and still does now.

Everyone always comments on how beautiful a name it is, and we love it as it is a nice reminder of Stratford.

Lynsey Richards (mother of Arden), Northern Ireland


Compiled by Andree Massiah

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