Fair is foul, and foul is fair, a phrase that has become synonym with Macbeth. It is also the introduction to one of the most important themes of this tragedy: appearance and reality. Shakespeare uses various characters and situations to emphasize this confusion between the real and the surreal, the authentic and the fake, the act and the sincere. In order to discuss this theme, different characters will be looked at : in the first paragraph, the Witches, in the second, Duncan and in the third, Lady Macbeth.
The Witches introduce the theme with the infamous phrase “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” (scene 1, line 11) in the first scene. It’s functional for the Witches to say this in the beginning of the book, as they are the start of all the perplexity. They become the core of confusion when they awaken Macbeth’s ambition and transform his perspective of good and evil, making bad things look good and good things look bad. Ironically in connection with this, Banquo warns Macbeth, “Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s In deepest consequence” (1/3/125-126). The Witches continue to speak in contradicting language, such as “lesser than Macbeth, and greater” (1/3/65) and “Not so happy, yet much happier” (1/3/66) that adds to the sense of moral confusion, by implying that nothing is quite what it seems. Banquo’s warning is fulfilled at the end of the play when the Witches had won Macbeth’s trust with prophecies that became true –‘honest trifles’- and then betray him in the things that really mattered, his life and his country -‘deepest consequence’- to win his spirit for hell.
Until his death, King Duncan was misled by Macbeth’s false loyalty. When the Thane of Cawdor had been found guilty of being a traitor and was hanged, King Duncan thought so highly of Macbeth, that he gave the title to him. The Thane then ironically dies with pride while Macbeth dies a foe of Scotland. The King was under the impression that Macbeth was a loyal and brave soldier, calling him “O worthiest cousin” (1/4/14), but Macbeth was actually already planning to kill the King, “whose murder yet is but fantastical” (1/3/139). Even when Duncan goes to visit