What's in a name?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Those ever-entertaining, forever-loved characters.

      Reading through Love's Labour's Lost, we are introduced to a character named Costard, who, we are told, is a clown. Our previous encounter with a clown in A Winter's Tale, however, simply refers to the clown as 'Clown'. Why the difference? Why did they give one clown a name and not the other one? Pondering this question makes me think of another character created by Shakespeare: Juliet Capulet, who we all know asked the question "What's in a name?"

I ask the same thing.

      What is it about Costard that makes him worthy of a name? What is it about the Clown in A Winter's Tale that dooms him to remain without one? Is it simply that Costard needed to be accused by Armado, which would require a name to make sure that the audience know it was truly Costard who is being accused? Yet, couldn't Armado simply (though nothing by Armado is simple) have accused Costard without using his name? Couldn't he have said something like-

   'The one caught in this act- of which I have beforehand made reference- in the which I will now simply refer to as the act of which he has commited; for it is truly him which I have had sent to thee by way of this most highly esteemed man, by the name of Anthony Dull- a man of good repute, carraige, bearing, and estimation- who has delivered and graciously brought forward this aforesaid man; this low-spirited swain, this base minnow of thy mirth, this unlettered small-knowing soul, this shallow vassal whom I have caught in the act- who has been caught with a woman...'

That would pretty much point to none other than the clown, Costard. So... if the audience clearly knows who is being accused here, then why the need for his name?


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