Does the statement “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” thoroughly expresses the many themes of Shakespeare?s
Macbeth?? The first time we hear the statement is very early in the play when the witches say the exact
line “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” only for Macbeth himself to repeat it very closely two scenes later. This
repetition of the lines shows me that the characters themselves believe that there are many foul events
taking place. In this essay I will endeavour to prove that the above statement doesn?t express ?Macbeth?
thoroughly. Firstly I will show the fair Macbeth himself degrading into a foul inhuman monster. Secondly,
I will compare the witches to Macbeth to demonstrate the real foulness in these characters. I will then
show why I believe that there simply isn?t any fairness existing in ?Macbeth?. Then I will point out that
there are simply too many themes in Shakespeare?s ?Macbeth? to be summed up in one line.
Macbeth, in the beginning, is a man of valour, honour and nobility. By his loyal traits he helps maintain
Scotland?s stability. Macbeth, on the outside, seems to be the fairest man in all Scotland, however we
know better. Under the cloaking shadows of his skin, Macbeth hides his one weakness – that is ambition.
His wife knows of his ambition and stirs him to act on it. Macbeth struggles with a choice; should he let
the witches prophecies realise themself, or should he take steps to the achieve them. He knows that the
latter choice will involve the murder of his virtuous king Duncan, but even this isn?t enough to sway him as
he, after urging form his wife, chooses the latter. In doing so, Macbeth unrobed himself of all that is good
in the human soul – kindness, courage, honour and love. Macbeth becomes so obsessed with his chase of
glory that he turns away from all that he once cherished, even his wife. Macbeth becomes so blinded by his
new robes of kingdom that he doe!
sn?t even notice his wife slipping away into insanity. In the beginning Macbeth had great trouble with the
concept of murder, he regrets killing Duncan – “Wake Duncan with thoust knocking, I would if I could.”
However, by the end of the play Macbeth shows no sign of his human qualities, he has in fact become quite
inhuman, quite foul.
Sometimes if we don?t look carefully we only see things skin deep. Take the scene when Macbeth and
Banquo first see the three witches. If we don?t look carefully we see the fair Macbeth talking to the foul
witches. However, are the witches really the foul ones? I think Macbeth is really the foul one of the party.
This doesn?t say that the witches are fair, but it does say that they are not foul. The real blackness lies deep
within Macbeth. So, who are the fair ones? I can?t really say. I mean Macbeth is not because we know he
is a cold murderer in the end, and I don?t think that the witches are either. I have trouble in saying the
witches are fair, because, they are witches. I would go as far to say that neither of them are fair. However,
I need to point out that those who don?t look deeply enough would call Macbeth fair and the three witches
foul. Beauty is only skin deep, but the will to do evil is deep to the bone. This doesn?t mean that the
witches are not fo!
ul. In fact I think they are, witches are said to be the lovers of Satan, they carry with them images of
darkness and death, how could these supernatural beings not be described as foul?
As you can see I haven?t identified any fairness in ?Macbeth?. This is because I believe there is none.
Macbeth? has been described as the “Most profound and mature vision of evil.” How can there be
anything fair in a play based on evil, murder and treachery? People may argue that Macduff, the eventual
victor of Macbeth was the true and good man in the play, but I would say that by winning the crown in
violence, Macduff has repeated Macbeth?s act. It?s true that Macduff?s cause was more wholesome, but to
coin an old phrase ?He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword?. Who can say that Duncan came into the
crown by inheritance? Shakespeare has hatched a vicious circle of deception and treachery. Perhaps it?s
simply the witches that keep the circle in motion.
If you read into ?Macbeth? you can see many themes. Most of them can be found in Macbeth himself. For
example, Macbeth shows us that evil doesn?t pay and that ambition is blind. The play ?Macbeth? contains
so much imagery of evil, darkness, blood, supernatural, untimely death and murder. I find it inconceivable
that so many themes can be well summed up in “Fair is foul and foul is fair”. The principle behind
Macbeth? is a simple human truth, and that is of human frailty – ?Man can be destroyed by inner and outer
circumstances.? This statement is so powerful and indeed meaningful that “fair is foul and foul is fair”
simply doesn?t match up.
The repetition of the line “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” could simply be attributed to coincidence. There
was only ever one man who really knew what the above line meant, and this essay has barely scratched at
the surface of his ?Macbeth?. I recall someone saying that without sorrow we can not know joy, so perhaps
the fact that I can see evil in ?Macbeth? shows there is also good. There are so many layers to the tragic
play, I?ve found it impossible to consider them all here. I may be entirely wrong in this essay, however, I
believe that I followed the right path to be able to come to my conclusion – “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”
does not completely summarise every theme in Shakespeare?s ?Macbeth?.