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Spektrum Shake-speare

Schule und Unterricht 124 Characteristics III: Honesty To be a nobleman meant to conform to a certain mode of behaviour, which was not written down anywhere, but built on the common sense of people reputed «honest». As is to be expected, the term covers a wide field of mea- nings such as: Appropriate social behavior (comparable to today’s idea of «political cor- rectness») Sincere Noble Of good reputation: It depends on how one is esteemed by others, seen «through men’s eyes», thus good reputation may conflict with self-esteem. Civil: civil manners paved the way to a civilized society governed by law instead of violence. Both honest manners and learning came to be seen as requirements for par- ticipating in the government as a political leader. The crux of the matter, however, is: Who actually decides who really is honest or dishonest, for there is no written law to judge by? Inward and outward honesty When honesty refers to certain rules of outward behavior it may easily hap- pen that people follow them for the sake of success only; they completely forget the other meaning of honesty, namely being sincere and being true to one’s values. In Elizabethan aristocratic society honesty was essential. No matter how corrupt you were inwardly, as long as you played your social role correctly, nobody seemed to mind. In other words: the ethics of the court were ethics of behavior, not ethics of inner conviction or mentality. Moreo- ver, this society was characterized by fierce rivalry and competition for fa- vour. Small wonder people were tempted to discredit others by exposing their behavior as dishonest, even if this was not the case. One is painfully re- minded of our days in which competition may lead to uncontrollable bullying as well. Yet there is an essential difference to today’s world. Nowadays you may live and communicate with people from different classes whereas in Elizabethan times a member of the upper class was irrevocably bound to this