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Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. ~ Oscar Wilde

A mask is an object normally worn on the face, typically for protection, disguise, performance or entertainment. Masks have been used since antiquity for both ceremonial and practical purposes. Though usually worn on the face they may also be positioned for effect elsewhere on the wearer's body.


  • Young people, who are still uncertain of their identity, often try on a succession of masks in the hope of finding the one which suits them — the one, in fact, which is not a mask.
    • W. H. Auden, Forewords and Afterwords, "One of the Family", p. 369 (1973).
  • One thinker no less brilliant than the heresiarch himself, but in the orthodox tradition, advanced a most daring hypothesis. This felicitous supposition declared that there is only one Individual, and that this indivisible Individual is every one of the separate beings in the universe, and that those beings are the instruments and masks of divinity itself.
    • Jorge Luis Borges, Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius (1940), first translated into English by James E. Irby (1961).
    • Variant translation: This happy conjecture affirmed that there is only one subject, that this indivisible subject is every being in the universe and that these beings are the organs and masks of the divinity.
  • We wear the mask that grins and lies,
    It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
    This debt we pay to human guile;
    With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
    And mouth with myriad subtleties.

    Why should the world be over-wise,
    In counting all our tears and sighs?
    Nay, let them only see us, while
         We wear the mask.

    We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
    To thee from tortured souls arise.
    We sing, but oh the clay is vile
    Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
    But let the world dream otherwise,
         We wear the mask!

  • Fezzik: Why are you wearing a mask? Were you burned by acid or something like that?
    Man in Black: Oh, no, it's just they're terribly comfortable, I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.
  • Fire is to represent truth because it destroys all sophistry and lies; and the mask is for lying and falsehood which conceal truth.
    • Leonardo da Vinci, The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci (1938), X Studies and Sketches for Pictures and Decorations, as translated by Edward MacCurdy.
  • If you have abandoned one faith, do not abandon all faith. There is always an alternative to the faith we lose. Or is it the same faith under another mask?
  • It's a terrible thing to be alone — yes it is — it is — but don't lower your mask until you have another mask prepared beneath — as terrible as you like — but a mask.
    • Katherine Mansfield, in a letter to her future husband, John Middleton Murry (July 1917), published in The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield, Vol. I.
  • All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event — in the living act, the undoubted deed — there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask.
  • I'm not questioning your powers of observation, I'm merely remarking upon the paradox of asking a masked man who he is.
  • Beneath this mask there is more than flesh... beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy... and ideas are bulletproof.
  • Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.
  • Mrs. Squeamish: And that demureness, coyness, and modesty, that you see in our faces in the boxes at plays, is as much a sign of a kind woman, as a vizard-mask in the pit.
    Mrs. Dainty: For, I assure you, women are least masked when they have the velvet vizard on.

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