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

Examples of literary paradoxes in act 1, scene 1 of Macbeth include the appearances of the witches themselves, who might or might not exist, and the seemingly contradictory statements that the witches make, including "When the battle's lost and won" (1.1.4) and the most famous paradox in the play, if not in all dramatic literature, "Fair is foul and foul is fair" (1.1.11).

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A paradox, sometimes also called an antimony, is a statement which seems to contradict itself by including two (or more) elements which should not logically coexist.

In the opening scene of Macbeth, perhaps one of the best-known and most often quoted scenes in Shakespeare's works, the witches speak...

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A paradox, sometimes also called an antimony, is a statement which seems to contradict itself by including two (or more) elements which should not logically coexist.

In the opening scene of Macbeth, perhaps one of the best-known and most often quoted scenes in Shakespeare's works, the witches speak in paradoxes from the moment the second witch alludes to the idea of a battle being "lost and won." This seems paradoxical on the face of it: a battle cannot be both lost and won. However, when one pries more deeply, the reasoning becomes clear. In any battle, of course one side will lose, while the other will win. By being so cavalier about the outcome of the battle, the Second Witch shows that she is outside of, and uninterested in, such petty human squabbles. The battle will have been lost by one side and won by the other, but to the witches, it will only be over.

The witches' chant, "fair is foul and foul is fair," is another example of paradox. This is echoed later on in the play, forcing us to question how a day can be both foul and fair. However, as is the case with the battle, a day can easily turn out well for one person and poorly for another—or even good in one way for someone, while also being terrible in another way. It could certainly be argued that Macbeth's meeting with the witches led him into some benefits, but also considerable disaster.

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A literary paradox is a seemingly contradictory statement or situation which, upon further thought or investigation, nevertheless makes sense or contains elements of truth in the context in which the statement or situation occurs.

The first paradox in act 1, scene 1 of Shakespeare's Macbeth is the appearance of witches themselves, who might or might not exist. In Shakespeare's time, witches and the supernatural were absolutely believed to exist, so the paradox isn't as pointed or apparent to the Elizabethan audience as it might be to a modern audience.

In this first scene of the play, in only twelve lines, Shakespeare establishes for the audience the "world of the play." The world of Macbeth is one which accepts witches and the supernatural as essential elements of the play. The witches often speak in enigmatic, contradictory terms, and events and characters in the play are not always as they appear.

SECOND WITCH. When the hurlyburly's done (1.1.3).

In terms of a singular, isolated instance of disorder, noise, confusion, chaos, or, in this frame of reference, a battle in a war, "hurlyburly" is a self-contained incident, with a beginning and an end. In terms of the continuing conflict and struggles of life, however—particularly the daily struggle for existence that most of the population experienced in Elizabethan times—the "hurlyburly" never seems to end.

In Henry IV, Part 2, Shakespeare uses word "hurly" to describe a storm at sea as a metaphor for a storm in his mind that won't let him sleep (3.1.25). In the context of the opening scene of Macbeth, "hurlyburly" can also mean a storm, which contains the elements of thunder, lightning, and rain to which the First Witch refers in the preceding line.

SECOND WITCH. When the battle's lost and won (1.1.4).

This statement seems contradictory in that a battle cannot be both lost and won, but only if applied to one or the other of the opposing forces. However, if applied to both forces, one force can be the winning force, and the other can be the losing force.

Also, one of the forces might win the battle, but the effects of the victory might be devastating to that force in terms of loss of life, or within the social, economic, or political context of the battle or the war.

"Fair is foul and foul is fair" (1.1.11) is the most famous paradox, if not the most famous line, in Macbeth. Many, many books and articles have been written about this single line. This enigmatic line, like everything else that happens in the first scene of the play, helps establish the world of the play, in which appearances can be deceiving, and nothing is as it seems.

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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.

 

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