Macbeth: Scene I Analysis Essay

Submitted By JeffStPaul
Words: 630
Pages: 3

The opening scene of Macbeth, while having very few actual events that occur when compared to other scenes, and in part because it is short, never-the-less sets the tone for the rest of the entire play. That famous scene involving the three witches, or wyrd sisters, sets an eerie, supernatural tone, that in itself foreshadows the supernatural mood of the play as it develops. But the most often repeated theme is presented by the witches themselves when they recite the chant, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair." In those few prophetic words, the witches are warning the audience that things may not actually be what they seem to be at first glance, and that they need to pay close attention to the events that follow and to watch out for the unexpected. So let's look at how these words foretell future events in Shakespeare's Macbeth.

The wyrd's attentions are drawn to Macbeth as they look into the future, and they waste little time meeting him on the heath. They appear to Macbeth and tell him that he will first become Thane of Cawdor, and beyond that he will become King. Now this is certainly perceived as good tidings to Macbeth, but the wyrds leave Macbeth with a somewhat cryptic remark that there may be a price to be paid. The price is that although he will be in happy circumstances, Macbeth will, in reality, be unhappy. Macbeth's comrade Banquo, although his circumstances will be less happy, will be happier.

Within that single scene is so much mind-twisting, thanks to the aptly named "wyrds", that it takes the rest of the play for the audience to unscramble it; but the prediction does turn out to be true. When Macbeth's ambition to be King drives him to murder King Duncan, his guilty conscience drives him insane. "O, full of scorpions is my mind," Macbeth laments. Yet Banquo, who is later murdered by Macbeth's agents, has piece of mind and is free from guilt. "Happy is unhappy, and unhappy is happy," were the words of the wryd.

At the time of the prophecy, Macbeth appears to be, and is, a loyal and faithful general to King Duncan and a brave and honorable man. For Macbeth to kill King Duncan in his sleep is the apex of contemptable behavior, ie., "Fair is foul". These two incidents are two clear and parallel