chapter  2
19 Pages

Naming in Harry Potter

Plato, Shakespeare and Ovid

Harry Potter's names are an exuberantly joyful, as well as highly informative, part of its imagined world. Rowling drew inspiration from numerous sources. This chapter explores the literary concept of 'cratylic' naming – a name that fits the person's nature – before looking at the influence of Shakespeare and classical sources on a number of Harry Potter's names. It argues, in particular, for the influence of the Latin poet Ovid. Ovid is the source of the first names of Remus Lupin, Merope Gaunt, Argus Filch and Narcissa Malfoy, and – as the chapter also argues – the Ovidian myths of Narcissus and of Orpheus and Eurydice also influence Harry Potterin more fundamental ways. Plato's Cratylus is a dialogue between Socrates, Cratylus and Hermogenes in which Socrates explains the nature of language through an explanation of names. Rowling saw Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale as a teenager and that was where he found the name Hermione.