In act 1 of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” the witches are talking in rhyme and they say together “fair is foul, and foul is fair”. What they say this foreshadows a significant theme in the play. The meaning of the theme is that everything that is good is bad and everything that is bad is good. This theme comes up all over the play.
When Macbeth gets foretold that he would be king, which is good, but what he must do to become king is not as good. In Scene 3 of Act 1 Macbeth is told by the witches that he will become king and that was will be the Thane of Cawdor. They say, “All, hail Macbeth! Thane of Cawdor!… All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter” (Shakespeare 1.3.52). He was convinced that the witches could tell the future because there was no way they could’ve known he had become the Thane of Cawdor. He saw this as great news.
A little bit later in the play King Duncan reveals that his son __ will take the thrown when he passes away. This is the first time the play recognizes that what’s good is bad and what’s bad is good. To Macbeth being told he would be the king couldn’t sound better. He doesn’t realize in this moment that being king is not as good as it seems for the path to kingship is dark. Another interpretation is that when the witches said fair is foul and foul is fair, they were referring to the fairer gender being women is foul. This goes back to Adam and Eve, but in this play the women in it are the most foul.
In Act 1 Scene 5 Lady Macbeth has gotten a letter from her husband, Macbeth. What he wrote in the letter is updating her on what the witches just told him. She becomes obsessed with the thought of her Macbeth becoming a king. But mostly she is obsessed with the power she’d obtain if he did become king. Lady Macbeth being the fairer sex becomes the foulest of them all. Lady Macbeth belittles her husband into killing King Duncan. She says, “When you durst do it, then you are a man.” She tells her husband that he isn’t a man until he kills the king, which is very foul.
In Act 4 Scene 2 Lady Macduff is in a room with her son and Ross who warns her that she isn’t safe. She proceeds to talk bad about her husband, Macduff, in front of her son. Lady Macduff tells her son that Macduff is a traitor and should be hung. And while the logic is there and that is obviously a true statement. It is not very “fair” of her to tell her son that his dad should be hung. Macbeth’s castle is also a big representation of fair is foul, foul is fair. Throughout the scene King Duncan loves how beautiful it is and how pleasant the atmosphere is. He sees the castle as being very fair. Little does he know it will be the foulest place he ever enters.
In Act 1 Scene 5 Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth “look like the innocent flower, But be the serpent under’t.”(1.5.__). She is explaining to Macbeth how she needs to go about killing King Duncan at their house party. He needs to look fair, but act foul. Throughout the house party Macbeth is having an interpersonal conflict trying to decide whether he should be foul and kill King Duncan or if he should be fair and become the king the good way.
King Duncan was seen throughout the country as an extremely fair king. But since one of the themes of this poem is good is bad and bad is good that means that him being the fair king that he is is going end up being foul for him in the future. It is obvious in Act 5 Scene 1 that Lady Macbeth has lost her marbles when she is seen sleepwalking and talking about the murder of King Duncan and Banquo. She acts like she is washing her hands as if she’s trying to wash away the guilt of their murders.
While Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking she says, “who’d would have thought the old man had so much blood in him” talking about about how much blood there was when Macbeth killed King Duncan. She is dying from the guilt she has. Her foulness is taking over her mental state. She says “The Thane of Fife had a wife where is she now?”(5.1._).She has seen herself go from fair to foul. She knows she’s not the same person she was before Macbeth became the Thane of Cawdor. She eventually commits suicide sealing her fate as a foul woman.
The theme fair is foul and foul is fair is an important theme in Macbeth. It emphasizes the idea that people hide their real intentions. Shakespeare uses this theme to make the reader be careful about judging things and not to judge anyone based on just what they know. King Duncan thought the best of Macbeth when he promoted him to Thane of Cawdor. He in no way expected Macbeth to come for him. Not everyone’s intentions are what they appear to be. In this play King Duncan was the one who was fair and Macbeth was the one who was foul, and Macbeth was the one who ended up with their life.