"My dear dear lord,
The purest treasure mortal times afford
Is spotless reputation; that away,
Men are but gilded loam or painted clay..."
See in text (Act I - Act I, Scene 1)
The meaning of "reputation" referring to one's good name dates from the mid-16th century. "Spotless reputation" appears to have originated in this play. Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk, is agitated because Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV, has accused him of treason. Such an accusation, even if untrue, is enough to sully Mowbray's reputation. While King Richard asks for moderation and patience, Mowbray objects with this much-admired speech. Without a good name, or reputation, Mowbray insists, one is simply "gilded loam or painted clay"; that is to say, nothing of substance. Reputation is important because without public honor, one's inner virtues are not visible. During the Renaissance, slandering someone's name was enough to call for a duel, which soon ensues after Mowbray's speech.
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