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Publication details for Dr Sara L. UckelmanUckelman, Sara L. (2019). Names Shakespeare Didn't Invent: Imogen, Olivia, and Viola Revisited. Names 67(3): 153-159.
- Publication type: Journal Article
- ISSN/ISBN: 0027-7738, 1756-2279
- DOI: 10.1080/00277738.2018.1490518
- Further publication details on publisher web site
- Durham Research Online (DRO) - may include full text
Author(s) from Durham
Just as Shakespeare’s plays left their indelible stamp on the English language, so too did his names influence the naming pool in England at the beginning of the 17th century and beyond, and certain popular modern names are often described as inventions of Shakespeare. In this article, we revisit three names which are often listed as coinages of Shakespeare’s and show that this received wisdom, though oft-repeated, is in fact incorrect. The three names are Imogen, the heroine of Cymbeline; and Olivia and Viola, the heroines of Twelfth Night. All three of these names pre-date Shakespeare’s use. Further, we show in two of the three cases that it is plausible that Shakespeare was familiar with this earlier usage. We conclude by briefly discussing why these names are commonly mistakenly attributed to Shakespeare’s imagination, and the weaker, but not mistaken, claims which may underlie these attributions.