For this week’s edition of Weekly Geeks, we’re going to take a closer look at character names. What are some of your favorite character names? Look up a favorite character’s name. What does their name mean? Do you think the meaning fits the character? Why or why not?
I decided to explore the name of the Vicomte de Valmont. Problem: After skimming through "Dangerous Liaisons" by Choderlos de Laclos it seemed to me the Vicomte didn’t have a first name, at least I couldn’t find one. I couldn’t remember if I ever saw a first name appear in the book, last time I read the book was at least 15 years ago. Anyway, I wikied (is that already a valid verb, not sure) him and, strangely enough, the German wikipedia gives first names for some of the characters. Did you know that the Marquise de Merteuil’s first name was Isabelle?
OK, so now I had a name to start with, his first name was Sébastien.
Sébastien comes from the Greek name Sebastianos, which meant "from Sebaste", a town in Asia Minor. The name of the town again derived from the Greek word sebastos (sebastos) which means "venerable" or "august".
Does it fit the character? No. Valmont is a ruthless seducer with a bad reputation. He got together with the Marquise when she was left behind by Gercourt for another woman who in turn discarded Valmont for Gercourt. When the whole plot started he was determined to seduce a woman just to prove that he could, but soon gave in to Merteuil’s plan to seduce Cécile. Thus both were bound together by their wish for revenge. Merteuil because she wanted to see Gercourt’s future wife, Cécile, in disrepute, Valmont because Cécile’s mother advised his sex interest, Madame de Tourvel, against hooking up with him. Only when he has fallen in love with de Tourvel against his will, he realizes that he is just another instrument in Merteuil’s machinations. Even though his motives started out to be somewhat doubtful he never shows a real evil spirit, whereas his partner in crime is a truly mean, spiteful character. Valmont dies in the end from a duel wound, regretting deeply that he gave up his love for his pride and not before he made sure Merteuil’s plotting will become known – thus redeeming himself.