Who's Who in Shakespeare: A Dictionary of Characters and Proper Names

Who's Who in Shakespeare: A Dictionary of Characters and Proper Names

by Francis Griffin Stokes


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Who's Who in Shakespeare: A Dictionary of Characters and Proper Names by Francis Griffin Stokes

Although many of Shakespeare's allusions would have been familiar to the theater-goers of his day, we've come a long way from the language of the Globe Theater. This indispensable dictionary helps modern readers and audiences find their way back to the Elizabethan stage. With more than 3,000 entries, it encompasses all of the plays as well as the poems and sonnets. In addition to the historical, mythical, and fictitious characters themselves, the coverage extends to their references to other people, places, literature, and legends.
Who's Who in Shakespeare offers an alphabetical guide to these names. It provides a specific identity and context for each, with quotations from the works in which they appear, from the sources which Shakespeare may himself have used, and from the writings of his contemporaries. The author has also contributed his own comments on the accuracy of some of the historical and geographical references, and on the links between the playwright's life and his choices of names.
Entries for major characters feature brief analyses of their roles, arranged scene by scene. The plays appear under their individual titles, with details of their original publication and probable date of composition. A useful appendix contains family trees of the important ruling and noble houses at the time of the Wars of the Roses, plus a catalog of works included in the First Folio.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486454580
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 03/15/2007
Series: Dover Books on Literature and Drama Series
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

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Who's Who in Shakespeare

A Dictionary of Characters and Proper Names


Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-12178-9



Aaron. D.P. T. And. A Moor, beloved by Tamora. i, 1] p.m. ii, 1] (sol.) resolves 'to mount aloft' with his 'imperial mistress'; checks a quarrel between her sons over Lavinia, and shows them how they may both work their will. ii, 3] conceals gold in the forest; hints to Tam. the fate of Bassianus and Lav., and gives her a 'fatal-plotted scroll' for Saturninus. ii, 4] lures Quintus and Martius to the pit wherein lies the body of Bas.; later, brings Sat. to the spot, and unearths the gold, to confirm the letter fixing the murder of Bas. on the two young men. iii, 1] cuts off Titus' hand as a pretended sacrifice to save his sons. iv, 2] realizes that Tit. knows the truth; his infant by Tam. is brought to him to be slain, but he spares it, and kills the nurse; plans to exchange the babe for another. (iv, 4) mtd. v, 1] is led to Lucius with the babe in his arms, and, to save it, makes full confession. v, 3] is condemned to be set 'breast-deep in earth' and famished.

'The powerful sketch of Aaron is a good deal indebted to the Barabas of Marlowe.... Both have a delight in evil apart from the pleasure anticipated from an end gained. They revel in it, like a virtuous egoist in the consciousness of virtue.' (A. Symons, Introduction to Sh. Quarto Facsimiles (Pretorius), No. 29, p. xi.)

Abbess. D.P. Com. Err. See Aemilia (1).

Abel. Second son of Adam. 'Which blood, like sacrificing A.'s, cries, Even from the tongueless caverns of the earth' (Rich. II, i, 1; cf. Gen. iv, 10); 'This be Damascus, be thou cursed Cain, To slay thy brother A., if thou wilt' (1 Hen. VI, i, 3). Cf. Higden, Polychronicon, f. xii: 'Damascus is as moche as to say a shedynge of blood. For there Chaym slowe Abell and hidde hym in the sande'; also Mandeville (1725), p. 148: 'and in that place where Damascus was founded Kaym slew A. his brother.'

'The tomb of A.' is shown on a hill, Nebi-Abel, near Damascus. But the old Jewish tradition may find its source in the fact that the affix 'Abel' means a grassy spot.

Abergavenny, or Aberga'ny, Lord. See Neville, George (1).

Abhorson. D.P. M. for M. An executioner. iv, 2] fears that the clown, as an assistant, would 'discredit our mystery.' iv, 3] summons Barnardine to execution.

Abradas. See Bargulus.

Abraham. Originally 'Abram' (Gen. xvii, 5). Patriarch. 'A.'s bosom' the abode of the blessed (Luke xvi, 22).

'Holy A.' (M.V. i, 3); 'O father A.' (ib. ib.); 'the bosom of good old A.!' (Rich. II, iv, 1); 'the sons of Edward sleep in A.'s bosom' (Rich. III, iv, 3). See Arthur.

The form 'Abram' is used by Shylock (QqFf).

Abraham Cupid. 'Young A.C., he that shot so trim, When King Cophetua lov'd the beggar-maid'(Rom. J. ii, 1); in allusion to 'the blinded boy, that shoots so trim' of the ballad (Percy, Reliques, ed. Wheatley, i, 193).

'Abraham,' or 'Abram,' is the reading of QqFf, and has been explained as a mistake for 'auburn,' or as referring to Cupid's perpetual youth, or to his being a cheat—an 'Abraham- man.' But Upton (1746) held that 'Abram' is merely a printer's error for 'Adam,' and that the reference is to Adam Bell, an archer of proverbial skill. See Adam (5).

Abram (1). See Abraham.

Abram (2). D.P. Rom. J. Servant to Montague. i, 1] joins in a fray.

Absyrtus. Son of Aeëtes and brother of Medea. M., when pursued by her father, slew Ab. and scattered his body in pieces on the way, to delay Aeëtes (Ovid, Trist. iii, 9).

'Meet I an infant of the house of York, Into as many gobbets will I cut it As wild Medea young Ab. did' (2 Hen. VI, v, 2; 'Absirtis,' Ff).

Academe. Also 'Achademe' (QF1). Garden, near Athens, where Plato taught; hence a university, etc. 'Our court shall be a little A.' (L.L.L. i, 1); mtd., ib. iv, 3 (2).

Perh. in allusion to the 'Philosophical Academy' of the 'Wizard' E. of Northumberland (1564–1632). Cf. Sh. Eng. i, 248.

Accost, Mary. Aguecheek, blundering, attributes this name to Maria; T. Nt. i, 3.

One of the fashionable terms of courtship in Sh.'s time, acc. Halliwell, who quotes various 'exploytes of good Accost' from Sir Gyles Goosecap (1606).

Acheron. One of the rivers of the infernal regions; sometimes the underworld itself; often, it would appear, regarded in Sh. as a lake.

'Hecate. At the pit of A. meet me'(Macb. iii, 5; this, Wright suggests, is merely a poetical name of 'some foul tarn' near Macbeth's castle); 'drooping fog as black as A.' (M.N.D. iii, 2; cf. Fairfax, Ger. Lib. ii, 2, 'A.'s darke shores'); 'I'll dive into the burning lake below, And pull her out of A. by the heels' (T. And. iv, 3).

The infernal 'lake' mtd. but not named: 'Pluto's damned lake' (2 Hen. IV, ii, 4); 'Descend to darkness and the burning lake' (2 Hen. VI, i, 4); 'Nero is an angler in the lake of darkness' (Lear, iii, 6). In all these cases the identification of the 'lake' with A. is merely conjectural.

Achilles. Son of Peleus and Thetis (Tr. Cr. iii, 3); chief hero of the Greeks in the Trojan War; he feared (as did all the Greeks save Menelaus) to meet Hector in single combat (Hom. Il. vii), but ultimately slew H. in revenge for the death of his friend Patroclus at H.'s hands (Il. xxii). According to a later tradition, Telephus, having been wounded by the spear of A., was cured by applying the rust of the same weapon (Ovid, Rem. Am. 48; Metam. xii, 112. 'Dict. Cret.' 2, 10). Achilles' love for Polyxena, which plays an important part in later traditions, is not mentioned in the Homeric poems.

'Hide thy head, A., here comes Hector in arms' (L.L.L. v, 2, 1. 635); 'Whose smile and frown, like to A.'s spear, Is able with the change to kill and cure' (2 Hen. VI, v, 1; cf. Chaucer, The Squire's Tale, 1. 239).

D.P. Tr. Cr. (i, 3) he lies in his tent, and loves to hear Patroclus mimic the other chiefs; Ulysses schemes to 'crop' his pride. ii, 1] intervenes as Ajax is chastising Thersites; speaks scornfully of Hector's challenge to the Greeks. ii, 3] tolerates Thersites' jibes; retires to his tent, and sends word by Ulysses that he 'will not to the field.' iii, 3] as he stands at the entrance of his tent, the chiefs pass by him with ostentatious indifference; he is thereby perplexed; obtains converse with U., who tries to arouse his jealousy of Ajax, and warns him that his love for Polyxena is known; Ach. suddenly has 'a woman's longing' to see Hector in his 'weeds of peace'; sends word to Ajax to this effect. iv, 5] converses with H.; begs the heavens say 'in which part of his body Shall I destroy him'; challenges him to combat on the morrow. v, 1] receives a letter from Hecuba and 'a token' from Polyxena urging him to keep an oath that he has sworn; declares that he will obey this 'major vow'; invites Hector to his tent. (v, 4) mtd. v, 5] is roused to action by the death of Patroclus, whom he swears to avenge. v, 6] while his 'arms are out of use' encounters Hector, who bids him pause if he will; accepts H.'s courtesy, but exclaims 'anon thou shalt hear of me again.' v, 7] instructs his Myrmidons to fall on H. as soon as he is found. v, 8] gives the word to his Myrmidons, who attack the unarmed H. and kill him; drags H.'s body at his horse's tail. v, 9] is accorded the glory of having slain H.

In making Achilles a traitorous ally and a treacherous foe Sh. does but follow medieval tradition, for the Romancists always sided with the Trojans, as being ancestors of the Romans; but in attributing his 'awakening' to a desire to avenge Patroclus Sh. follows Homer and not Benoît de Sainte-More, who attributes it to jealousy of the exploits of Troilus.

The brawn and bulk of Achilles are strongly insisted on: 'large A., on his press'd bed lolling' (i, 3); 'broad A.' (ib.). (Caxton mentions his 'brode sholdres.')

Achitophel, or Ahitophel. The Gilonite, who deserted David for Absalom (2 Sam. xv– xvii); hence a treacherous friend. Falstaff calls his mercer, who would not give him credit, 'a whoreson Ach.' (2 Hen. IV, i, 2).

Actaeon. Famous hunter, grandson of Cadmus, who saw Diana bathing with her nymphs, and was changed by her into a stag and torn to pieces by his hounds (Ovid, Metam. iii, 155 ff.); hence, in allusion to his horns, a cuckold.

'Like Sir A. he, with Ringwood [q.v.] at thy heels' (M.W.W. ii, 1); 'a secure and wilful A.' (ib. iii, 2). The story elaborated and applied, T. And. ii, 3. (Orsino alludes to the story, T. Nt. i, 1: 'That instant was I turn'd into a hart, And my desires like fell and cruel hounds E'er since pursue me.')

Actium. Promontory in Acarnania, at the entrance of the Ambracian Gulf, off which Octavius gained a naval victory over Antony and Cleopatra, 31 B.C. (Plut. pp. 213–6).

'The head of Actium' (Ant. Cl. iii, 7); the battle described, ib. iii, 10.

Adallas. 'King of Thracia,' an ally of Antony's (Plut. p. 207). Mtd. ('Adullas,' Ff), Ant. Cl. iii, 6.

Adam (1). The first man. 'A.'s sons are my brethren, and ... I hold it a sin to match in my kindred' (M, Ado, ii, 1, 1. 66); 'endowed with all A. had left him before he transgressed' (i.e. all the world; ib. ib. 1. 226); 'The moon was a month old, when A. was no more' (L.L.L. iv, 2); 'Had he been A., he had tempted Eve' (ib. v, 2, 1. 322); 'old A.'s likeness' (Rich. II, iii, 4); 'the old days of goodman A.' (1 Hen. IV, ii, 4); 'in the state of innocency, A. fell' (ib. iii, 3); 'consideration ... whipped the offending A. out of him' (Hen. V, v, 1; cf. Gen. iii, 23–4); 'A. was a gardener' (2 Hen. VI, iv, 2); 'A.'s profession' (Haml. v, 1); 'the scripture says, A. digged' (ib. ib.; cf. Gen. iii, 23); 'Dro. S. What, have you got the picture of old A. new apparelled? Ant. S. ... What A. dost thou mean? Dro. S. Not that A. that kept the Paradise, but that A. that keeps the prison' (Com. Err. iv, 3).

Adam (2). D.P. A. Y.L. 'An old servant of Sir Rowland de Boys, now following the fortunes of Orlando' (Rowe). i, 1] to him Or. discourses on his wrongs; he tries to stay the quarrel between Or. and his brother Oliver; is treated with contumely by the latter. ii, 3] urges Or. to flee from Oliver; presses on him the savings of a thrifty lifetime, and accompanies him in his flight. ii, 6] sinks exhausted by hunger and fatigue. ii, 7] is borne by Or. to the Duke's table.

The corresponding character in Lodge's Rosalynde, and in The Tale of Gamelyn, is Adam Spencer, or Adam the spencer—i.e. steward. There is a tradition that the part of A. was played by Sh. himself; cf. Lee, pp. 88, 462.

Adam (3). 'A. that keeps the prison' (Com. Err. iv, 3). Acc. some commentators, because his buff garments resembled the native 'buff' of A.

Adam (4). A servant; Tam. Sh. iv, 1, 1. 139.

Adam (5). For 'Adam Bell,' a traditional archer of great skill (cf. Percy, Reliques, ed. Wheatley, i, 153). 'He that hits me, let him be clapped on the shoulder and called A.' (M. Ado, i, 1, 1. 261).

Adam Cupid. See Abraham Cupid.

Adon. For 'Adonis.' Mtd., V. A. 769; 'two A.s dead' (ib. 1070).

Adonis. To the myth of A. there is no allusion in the plays, the only mention of him being: 'A., painted by a running brook' (Tam. Sh. Ind. 2). Mtd. Son. liii. Named sixteen times in Venus and Adonis (q.v.), five times in P.P.

Adonis, Gardens of. 'Adonis horti' ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). In connexion with the rites of Adonis these were baskets filled with earth, in which corn and flowers were sown and tended for eight days. The plants shot up quickly, but withered immediately, and were then thrown, symbolically, into running water. (Frazer, Adonis, Attis, Osiris (1914), i, 236 ff.; cf. Pliny, Nat. Hist. XIX, xix, 1.) This description, however, does not accord with the only allusion in Sh. to the G. of A.: 'Adonis' gardens That one day bloom'd and fruitful were the next' (1 Hen. VI, i, 6). It has been suggested that there is confusion here with the 'garden of Alcinous' (Horn. Od. vii); but the allegorical 'Garden of Adonis, far renowned by fame,' described in The Faerie Queene (1590), III, vi, as of surpassing fertility, and where 'there is continuall Spring, and harvest there Continuall, both meeting at one time,' suggests a more likely source of the discrepancy. Cf. also Every Man out of his Humour (1598), iv, 6.

Adramadio, Dun. Costard's perversion of 'Don Adriano de Armado' (q.v.); L.L.L. iv, 3, 1. 199.

Adrian (1). D.P. Temp. 'A Lord' (Ff); 'the cockrel' (ii, 1); shipwrecked on Prospero's island with Alonso, King of Naples. ii, 1] praises the climate of the isle; converses with Gonzago. iii, 3] follows Alonso to save him from suicide. v, 1] p.m.

Adrian (2). D.P. Cor. ('A Volsce' in st. dirs. and pfxs.) iv, 3] on his way to Rome meets Nicanor (q.v.), a traitorous Roman, and hears the welcome news of insurrections in the city and the banishment of Coriolanus; returns to Antium with N.

Adriana. D.P. Com. Err. Wife to Antipholus of Ephesus. ii, 1] perturbed at her husband's absence, she scorns the counsel of her sister, who advises patience and submission; is informed by Dromio that Ant. is 'stark mad,' since he demands 'his gold' and repudiates both wife and home; she is overcome with jealous fears, and speaks of a chain Ant. had promised her. ii, 2] meeting Ant. of Syracuse, reproaches him for his supposed faithlessness, but forgives him, and persuades him to come to dinner forthwith. (iv, 1) Dro. of Syracuse is sent to her. iv, 2] is dismayed on hearing that 'her husband' has been making love to her sister Luciana; is told by Dro. S. that 'his master' has been arrested for the price of a chain and requires money from his desk; she sends it. iv, 4] believing Ant. possessed, she brings 'a conjuror' to exorcize him; she is, to her amazement, accused of having shut her husband out of his house, and sent him no money; has Ant. bound as a lunatic and carried home; about to visit the goldsmith and pay for the chain, she flees in terror from Ant. S., who enters with drawn rapier. v, 1] meeting Ant. S. and Dro. S., urges the bystanders to seize them, and on their taking refuge in an abbey hard by explains to the abbess that her husband is out of his mind; is told that this must be due to her own shrewishness; clamours to have her husband restored to her; explains matters to the Duke; to her astonishment her husband enters from another quarter, as though 'borne about invisible'; finally, when the twin brothers both stand before her, she remains unable to distinguish between them.

The wife to Menaechmus of Epidamnus, in the Menaechmi of Plautus, is unnamed.

Adriano. See Armado.

Adriatic, adj. 'Were she as rough As are the swelling A. seas' (Tam. Sh. i, 2). Cf. 'inquieti Hadriae' (Hor. Odes, iii, 3).

Aeacides. Patronymic of descendants of Aeacus. 'Ae. was Ajax' (Tam. Sh. iii, 1); 'Aio te, Aeacida, Romanos vincere posse,' as an instance of ambiguous oracle (2 Hen. VI, i, 4).

Aedile, An. D.P. Cor. iii, 1] p.m. iii, 3] announces approach of Cor.; exults over his fall. iv, 2] p.m.

In iii, 1, several Aediles are present.

Aegeon. D.P. Com. Err. A merchant of Syracuse. i, 1] relates to the Duke how he came to Ephesus in quest of a lost son; is condemned to death for unlawfully landing at Eph., unless he can procure a ransom during the day. v, 1] on his way to execution recognizes his sons and also his lost wife Aemilia; is granted his life, without ransom.

The father of the twins in the Menaechmi of Plautus is Moschus.

Aegles. Properly 'Aegle.' A nymph, d. of Panopeus; 'Aegles, the nymph, was loved of Theseus' (Plut. p. 284). 'And make him with fair Ae. ['Eagles,' Ff] break his faith' (M.N.D. ii, 1).

The classical spelling was restored by Rowe.

[Aelian.] Claudius Aelianus. His Varia Historia (Eng. transln. 1576) yields a passage (xii, 23) which has been supposed to be the origin of Hamlet's 'sea of troubles' (Haml. iii, 1).

Aemilia (1). D.P. Com. Err. An abbess, long-lost wife of Aegeon. v, 1] refuses to give up Antipholus of Syracuse, who has taken refuge in her abbey; declares that if he is mad he has been made so by his scolding wife; later, recognizes her husband on his way to execution, and reveals that she is his wife, and mother of the twin Antipholuses; bids the Duke and the assembled company come to a feast in the abbey, 'And hear at large discoursed all our fortunes.'

'Abbess' in st. dirs. and pfxs. There is no corresponding character in the Menaechmi of Plautus.

Aemilia (2). See Emilia (1).

Aemilius. D.P. T. And. A noble Roman. iv, 4] announces that the Goths, under Lucius Andronicus, are marching on Rome; is sent as an envoy to L. v, 1] delivers his message.v, 3] presents L. to the populace as emperor.


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Table of Contents


Abbreviated Titles of Plays and Poems,
Generral Abbreviations,
Explanation of Signs, etc.,
Addenda Et Corrigenda,
I Family of Beaufort,
II House of Lancaster,
III House of York,
IV Family of Mortimer,
V Family of Neville,
VI Family of Percy,

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