What are 3 examples of paradox in act 1 scene 1 of Macbeth? 

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The opening scene of Macbeth contains these paradoxes, or apparent contradictions that contain truths:

(1) When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain? (1.1.1-2)

This statement indicates that lightning, thunder, and rain are separate natural phenomenon.  However, thunder must always have lightning precede it since thunder is a result of the bolt of lightning that creates plasma which heats the air to effect the expansion of air which causes the thunder.

(2) When the battle's lost and won (1.1.4)

This is another part of the witches' predictions that Macbeth will win battles and conquer others, but the cost of his victories will be terrible loss: Lady Macbeth goes mad and kills herself.

(3) Fair is foul, and foul is fair.
Hover through the fog and filthy air. (1.1.11-12)

With Macbeth's heart of darkness and "vaulting ambition," a phanstasmagoric realm of witchcraft along with insomnia and insanity, there will be a confused succession of events, some of which are real and some imagined. This is the meaning of the witches' apparently contradictory, but truthful predictions. That which is good will be turned to evil.

In addition to these, there are other paradoxes from Act I: 

(4)...and nothing is
But what is not. (1.3.152-153)

These lines come from an aside by Macbeth who attempts to reconcile his "horrible imaginings" with his "present fears."  If he can convince himself that reality and the phantasmagoric are the same, by his actions he can change what has not happened to something it should not be, or maybe he does not have to do anything.


(5) Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none. (1.3.68-70)

These paradoxical words from the three witches to Banquo express the contradiction that Banquo is lesser than Macbeth in terms of power, but greater than Macbeth because his descendents will be kings after Macbeth is dead.


kimpdancer | Student

1. "fair is foul and foul is fair"

the witches delight in the confusion between good and evil.

Sorry, that's all I got