Fair Is Foul And Foul Is Fair Theme Essay Examples

Macbeth Fair Is Foul And Foul Is Fair

"Fair is Foul, and foul is fair," these lines are the very backbone of Shakespeare's play. This oxymoron aptly describes the macabre status quo within the character Macbeth and without. In other words what seems from outside is not what is from within. The lines are chanted by the three witches at the start of act 1 scene 1. They seem to give a sense of foreboding to the audience of the dark event about to take place. The couplet sets forth the values of the play and gives an eerie and forbidding effect to it. It is worth noting that when Shakespeare writes a couplet he is very serious. Interestingly the first words Macbeth speaks refer to a fair and foul day. Thus Shakespeare emphasizes the importance of the line again at the start of scene 3.

The lines told by the weird sisters at the start of the play carry throughout the play and are among the most important theme Shakespeare builds Macbeth on. The fact that it is the witches who say it gives significance since witches are evil and they delight in confusing people in what is good and what is bad.

They do just that confusing Macbeth till his understanding of right and wrong is blurred. Till the fair Macbeth becomes the foul Macbeth. The couplet does not make much sense at the beginning but as the play progresses the meaning becomes clear and we understand that what seemed fair that is Macbeth was actually foul. First through the narration of the wounded captain we learn of the bravery and greatness of Macbeth. Then we meet Macbeth who in turn meets the weird sisters. Instead of being happy as he should be if one has just been prophesized he is silent. His body language does not show optimism either he seems to 'start' upon being proclaimed as a future king.

What does Shakespeare mean by Fair? A definition of fair is something that is positive which embodies good values. Interestingly Macbeth is described in Scene 2 of Act 1 by the wounded captain as a person possessing many of those 'Fair' qualities. We know that he is brave as seen from the lines of the captain- 'Like valor's minion, carved out his passage'. This ghastly line depicts a brave soldier willing to risk his life for the king by 'Carving' his passage through group of soldiers and then slicing the rebel Macdonwald in...

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Theme in Macbeth: “Fair is foul, foul is fair”

Macbeth’s theme in one word is EQUIVOCATION (of double or doubtful meaning, questionable, ambiguous). Equivocation is prevalent throughout the play. Lady Macbeth uses it a lot, and suggests it to her husband when she says “…look like the innocent flower / But be the serpent under ‘t…” (Act I, Scene 5, 64-65)

In other words, the idea or themes of Macbeth “Fair is foul, foul is fair.” Basically, this means that appearances can be deceiving. What appears to be good can be bad, and this is seen in such things as the deceptive facade of Lady Macbeth and in the predictions of the witches.

What Does Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair Mean

In the first scene of the first act, three witches plan their next meeting in which they will encounter Macbeth. It is in this scene that the theme is first presented, as the tree witches chant, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair, hover through the fog and filthy air” (Act I, Scene 1, 11-12). The witches meet again in scene three of act one. One of the witches discusses a curse she has placed on a woman’s husband, because she refused to share her food. This display of evil powers and spitefulness suggests that the witches may have some influence in the development of the theme.

To the Weird Sisters what is ugly is beautiful, and what is beautiful is ugly: “Fair is foul and foul is fair”. Throughout the play, fair appearances hide foul realities.

Macbeth theme enters during scene three of act one along with Banquo, arriving from a victorious battle. He uses the motif to describe the day as “So foul and fair a day I have not seen” (Act I, Scene 3, 38). When Macbeth and Banquo first see the weird sisters, Banquo is horrified by their hideous appearances. Conversely, Macbeth immediately begins to converse with these universally known evil creatures. After hearing their prophecies, one can say that Macbeth considers the witches to be “fair” when in reality their intentions are quite “foul.”

Macbeth’s possession of the titles of Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland come by foul means. Upon hearing the prophecies, Macbeth immediately begins to plan his methods of obtaining these positions, including the murder of the king. Because of this, it may be assumed that he has thought of such actions prior to the meeting. This is an example of what was once fair, a loyal and noble of Scotland, has become foul, an ambitious traitor.

On the night of his murder, king Duncan is invited to a banquet hosted by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Once there, Duncan describes the castle in a positive manner. “This Castle hath a pleasant seat; the air / Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself / Unto our gentle senses.” (Act I, Scene 6, 1-3). Ironically, Macbeth murders him in his sleep in the castle. The main theme of the play is supported here, as this fair and pleasant castle, has become a foul place of betrayal and murder. This scenario is also seen at Macbeth’s second banquet, which he holds to show gratitude and love for his friends.

In her first appearances, Lady Macbeth is presented as an ambitiously evil and foul character that will do whatever it takes to get what she wants. We see this motivation in her when she says, “…How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me: / I would, while it was smiling in my face, / Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums, / And dash’d the brains out…” (Act I, Scene 6, 55-58). In these lines, Lady Macbeth threatens that she would smash her baby’s head if it meant achieving their goals. However, after killing Duncan and becoming queen, she realizes her mistakes and she is driven mentally ill by it. She is no longer able to live with the guilt and fears of her actions. In her case, we see what was once foul, becomes fair.

Throughout the play Macbeth, the general mood is one of crafty and betrayal. What appears to be fair is foul. This is why it is considered to be the major theme of the play. It is also considered to be a major idea in today’s society. This is why I find it very meaningful to me as maybe to other people.

Works Cited

  1. Bloom, Harold, and Janyce Marson. Macbeth. New York, Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2008.
  2. Greenhill, Wendy, and Paul Wignall. Macbeth. Chicago, Heinemann Library, 2000.
  3. “Macbeth l The Play l Themes.” Macbeth l The Play l Themes, resources.mhs.vic.edu.au/macbeth/theplay/themes.html.
  4. “Macbeth.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macbeth.

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