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Examine the dramatic significance of the theme “fair is foul” in Macbeth.

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Introduction

Examine the dramatic significance of the theme "fair is foul" in Macbeth. The witches chorus on Act 1, Scene 1,Line 11: "Fair is foul and Foul is Fair..." There are many themes in "Macbeth", not surprising given the play's richness of character, language and events. These themes include goodness and evil, deceptive appearances and reality and the supernatural. They are all linked to the idea of "fair is foul", as are the characters. I will now try to examine in more detail the dramatic significance of "fair is foul" in Shakespeare's "Macbeth". It is believed that the play was written with King James in mind. "Mabeth" was written sometime between 1603 and 1606, years during which King James (6th of Scotland and 1st of England) was on the throne. Many of James' interests were included in the play, for example kingship, loyalty and most importantly his fascination with supernatural (he even wrote a book called Demonology, on the subject). The idea of the supernatural and witchcraft in particular are very important during the play. The witches also known as the "Weird Sisters", Act 1 Scene 3 Line 34, represent evil and temptation in the play. In Shakespeare's day there was widespread belief in the existence of witchcraft and demonology. People feared that witches attempted to corrupt God's natural order, and thus in 1604 its practice became punishable by death. ...read more.

Middle

By this I mean he is a character who fits the idea, things that look good may turn out to be evil. However I don't think it is fair to call him completely evil. He did after all have a conscience, which played a major part throughout the play. It was his conscience that held him back from drastic actions, but not enough to stop him from murders that in the end he carried out. Lady Macbeth is also a good example of the theme "fair is foul". In the world of Shakespeare tragedies she has come to represent feminine treachery. Her ambition, foulness and rejection of female values, mark her as a heartless villain more monster than woman! "Come to my woman breasts and take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers" . Unlike Macbeth, it is easily noticed that she has an evil hunger for power from the start. "...chastice with the valour of my tongue All that impedes thee from the golden crown..." just a section of her words from the first time we meet her (Act 1 Scene 5). However Shakespeare uses dramatic irony, in that the audience know she is evil but many characters fail to see this. Many are fooled by her deceptive acts. "Fair and noble hostess", are the words Duncan used to describe Lady Macbeth, who turned out to be involved in his murder later that night. ...read more.

Conclusion

How is this possible? In reality no part of nature in form of lands and forests ever moves! Macbeth is also told "none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth". Macbeth doesn't know that Macduff wasn't born normally, and so believes he cannot be harmed. We must doubt how reliable these premonitions really are! While Banquo doubted what the witches said and preceded to question them, Macbeth had near complete faith in them. I think he believed them, because deep inside that's what he wants, and the premonitions give him hope of achieving an impossible target. The theme "fair is foul" is a paradox, although it appears to contradict itself it does contains a truth. This can be seen in the first act when the Thane of Cawdor is sentenced to death. Looking at the execution it would appear to be a foul act. However when considering the reason of execution, being disloyal to your King, it can also be seen as fair. This is very similar to what happens to Macbeth. His head was carried around the crowds, proving he had been killed. Yes, a very foul act but not completely unfair. After all this was a man who had committed many unforgivable crimes, and caused disorder all over a settled country. I think that for a line so confusing at first it appears to be the roots of the play! It is associated with nearly all the themes of the play, and all the characters especially Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. ...read more.

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