What’s in a name: that which we call a Porpentine by any other name would smell as musky…

Some quick hits on names in the play:

Antipholus is from Greek words meaning “opposed in balance”… so alike and equal that if you put them at opposite ends of a balance scale, it would tip in neither direction  (according to Asimov).

Dromio is from a Greek work meaning “racecourse”… and their masters certainly have them racing through the streets of Ephesus during the course of the play  (again according to Asimov).

Adriana has its root in “Hadria,” a city in northern Italy.

Luciana is “light” or “illumination” in Italian.

Emelia means “industrious” in Italian.

Egeon… I couldn’t find.

As for place/business names:

AS/DS’s hotel is the Centaur, a mythical man/horse mix (not a bad symbol for the confusion that the boys from Syracuse feel).

AE/DE’s home is at the Phoenix, a mythical bird that lives for 500 years then burns itself, only to rise from its own ashes (AE/DE rise from the ashes of AS/DS’s life history, perhaps?).

The courtesan’s home is at the Porpentine, another spelling of “porcupine.”  Of the three locations, this is the only real animal.  Is Shakespeare saying something about the courtesan (or her profession) being part of the ugly–or in this case, PRICK-ly (sorry for the pun)–side of real life?  Or is it just an animal which happens to have three syllables that scan right for the meter?

2 Replies to “What’s in a name: that which we call a Porpentine by any other name would smell as musky…”

  1. Hi! I realize that I am responding to a post nearly 9 years on, but since the site is still relevant, why not, eh?

    I am guiding 3 of my English 8 classes through this play this term, and we discussed names in the play last week. They made some connections that you have not mentioned here:
    * that The Centaur – the inn in which the Syracusian Twins establish themselves – sounds like “centre” and would have been near the centre of the town or the centre of the street leading to the harbour;
    * that Egeon sounds very much like Aegean. This would be the sea that half the family crossed to land in Ephesus after being rescued from the shipwreck. It is a weak link, we agree, but still, a link.
    * that Duke Solinus might be an autocratic ruler, since “sun” is in his name; however, I pointed out that Shakespeare wrote the play 2 generations before Louis XIV took the throne, so this reference was too early to exist

    They were full of theories about “The Tiger” and wondered if it was an establishment that served food from India, since Ephesus was once a port for trade coming from the east or if it had some other meaning.

    My students were also perturbed that the Courtesan is not named. Does she not deserve a name? She is a business owner, after all. (wink, wink).

    All in all, a fun discussion topic when studying a Shakespeare comedy. Thanks for the post, even though I discovered it nine years later!

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