A look at the affect names have on the characters of Fifth Business By Robertson Davies

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What's In A Name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." (Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene ii) A person's name can shape a large part of who they will be. In the novel Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, the names of the characters seem to directly reflect some of the characteristics of that individual. The new names for those characters that were twice born better reflect who those characters are. Other characters, such as Mary Dempster and Lisolette Vitzliputzli's names provide some insight into their characters.

After the war, Diana renamed Dunstable. His new name, Dunstan, better reflects who he is because of the many similarities between himself and Saint Dunstan. "Saint Dunstan was a marvelous person...mad about learning, terribly stiff and stern and scowly, and an absolute wizard at withstanding temptation"(Fifth Business p.90). Dunstable Ramsay had always been interested in learning, as evident from his childhood job at the local library, his education at the University of Toronto as well as his lifelong passion for studying saints.

As a child, Dunstable would read about magicians and had a particular interest in saints. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate that later in his life he be named after a saint. Dunny also had many other similarities between himself and Saint Dunstan; many things during Saint Dunstan's life can be compared to incidents in Dunny's life. When Dunny was young, he was ordered by his mother to help Mary Dempster. Similarly, Saint Dunstan, "With his parent's consent ... served in the ancient church of St. Mary." Accordingly, the name Dunstan is fitting to the character of Dunstan Ramsay.

Conversely, Percy Boyd Staunton renamed himself during the war. His new name, Boy Staunton is entirely...