Shakespeare on Hypocrisy, Deception and False Appearances

what may man within him hide Though angel on the outward side“O, what may man within him hide,
Though angel on the outward side!” (
Measure For Measure, act 3, sc. 2)

Tips for use.  A pointed comment on hypocrisy and hypocrites and generally on deceptive or false appearances. The word hypocrisy is of Greek derivation, hypokrisis, “acting on the stage, pretense”. Describing a European country in 1938 a French writer wrote, “Hypocrisy is the art of affecting qualities for the purpose of pretending to an undeserved virtue. Because individuals and institutions and societies most often live down to the suspicions about them, hypocrisy and its accompanying equivocations underpin the conduct of life. Imagine how frightful truth unvarnished would be.” Jump ahead 75 years. The weapons of mass destructions in Iraq? The AlQaeda in Afghanistan who hatched 9/11 whereas today the same AlQaeda fights for the Americans (read Wall Street and the Military-Industrial complex)? The “humanitarian” interventions in Lybia, Serbia, Granada, Vietnam etc. etc. Millions of dead “to save democracy”. “Imagine how frightful truth unvarnished would be” – a hint of how frightful it appears can be observed in the obsessive pursuit of Julian Assange, of Wikileaks and of whoever dares poke holes into the fabric of evil. Just like Isabella saw through the wiles of the ‘exemplary’ Angelo in Measure for Measure.

Take a look at the web-page describing the book “Your Daily Shakespeare”, 1390 pages filled to the brim with over 10,000 situations you may find yourself in or involved with, attuned to the perfect Shakespearean repartee that will get you on the stage or at least out of the water – besides making a winner of any verbal contest. “Your Daily Shakespeare” has been described as the most unusual, useful and unique book of Shakespearean quotations. Nothing similar exists or has ever existed.

And if you like this website why not subscribe (see last menu item to the right)? You will get automatically any new blog as well as any other information and novelty that will be forthcoming, including a system to effortlessly (yes) remember hundreds of Shakespearean quotes by heart while having fun in the process. You can also chat with me – please go to the chat-page. And I promise, no sales calls, trade leads, venomous schemes, hidden plots, Machiavellian conspiracies, commercial ploys, psychological tricks, leads exchanges, barter proposals, suggestions or offers of any kind imaginable (and unimaginable).

In the play. The Duke makes some general considerations about power, corruption and hypocrisy, arising from the behavior of Angelo.

Image Source:

This entry was posted in After Dinner Quotes, Best Shakespeare Quotes, Fighting your Adversary, Insults Shakespeare-style, Philosophical, Psychological & Historical Considerations, Presentation Ideas, Sayings about Life, Shakespeare in Management, Shakespeare in Politics, Social Exchanges Shakespeare style and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Shakespeare on Hypocrisy, Deception and False Appearances

  1. Marco says:

    I’m not sure about Angelo’s hypocrisy, only because Isabella herself is a bigger hypocrite. Recall all the dirty jokes she makes, and even the sado-masochistic, BDSM imagery she invokes to Angelo. She is supposed to be a novice nun but breaks the rules. She is used by the Duke to frame Angelo (so the Duke could execute him Borgia style) and call it saving her brother, meanwhile she doesn’t care for his life (or death). If you read the play in this light, you’ll see Isabella as the bigger hypocrite than Angelo.

    • jimmie says:

      Marco, Of course literary (or for that matter most) criticism, takes the color of the view of the critic. Therefore your critique is perfectly acceptable. After all critical remarks are always a form of psychological remarks – and psychology does not lend itself easily to simplifications, including Isabella’s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *