be what you would seem to be

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be what you would seem to be an adjuration contrasting real worth with its appearance, and indicating that the only sure way to appear virtuous is to be so. This proverb of the late Middle English period is found earlier in classical sources, such as the Aeschylus Seven against Thebes. In Catilina, Roman historian Sallust (86–35 bc) says of Cato, ‘He preferred to be rather than to seem good.’