Macbeth Themes: Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair Essay

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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,
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This mistrust begins even when Duncan is killed, and Donalbain says to Malcolm; ‘Where we are, there’s daggers in men’s smiles.’ Later even in England, when Macduff appeals to Malcolm for his support in a war against Macbeth, but even then, Malcolm is very cautious and after expressing his suspicions, he says, ‘Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell; though all things foul would wear the brows of grace, yet grace must still look so.’ Malcolm uses the example of Lucifer the ‘brightest angel’ who fell and became Satan. Malcolm is remaking that Macduff’s fair appearance may hide a foul heart, that one who looks like an angel may be a devil.

As the plot unfolds in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, we see that in the midst of all the other themes presented in the play, one stands out. This theme comes from one of the first lines in the play, ‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair.’ And it permeates throughout the story, generating mistrust through the characters and warning the audience of the deception, ambition and equivocation in the hearts of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. This themes only cements the idea that all is not it seems and that even the fairest face can hide the foulest