Macbeth Themes: Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair

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The theme of ‘Fair is foul, foul is fair’ permeates throughout the play 'Macbeth.' Explain what it means, providing examples from the play to support your answer:

One of the most important themes in the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare comes from one of the last lines in Act 1, Scene 1 of the play. The three witches speak this simple line ‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair,’ shortly before they disperse and it becomes a prophecy and an underlying warning for the rest of the play. The connotations of this one line becomes significant as the play unfolds beginning even with Macbeth’s opinions at the beginning of the story and lasting throughout the play with the constant recurring themes of deception, doing evil in the name of good, equivocation and ambition. We see that even from the beginning the unfolding events and themes can all be predicted through these first few lines in Act 1 Scene 1, events and themes that surround Macbeth’s eventual demise.

The line ‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair,’ has important significance to the play Macbeth. When the line comes from the witches we assume at first that they are speaking plainly, that the line means that for them, what is fair or good, for the witches is foul or evil and what is evil and foul for the witches is fair and good and that the witches delight in the confusion of the two, fair and foul. However when comparing the quote to the rest of the themes of the play, we interpret a deeper meaning in the line to the play. We know that the quote is an underlying theme that reflects through the plot of the play. We see that a similar line refers to the victory of the war that Macbeth achieves which is highlighted in the line, ‘So foul and fair a day I have not seen.’ We interpret this as the day being fair in victory but foul in the lives that were lost and the dreary weather that the army experience afterwards.

Fair is foul and foul is fair also presents itself in the way the prophecies are revealed to Macbeth,...
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