What is the dramatic significance of Act I, Scene 1 in Macbeth?

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We also learn that the play will be full of paradoxes.  "Fair is foul and foul is fair"--the witches are planning something funky, and it will be interesting to say the least to se how things will play out.  Macbeth is the hero for now, but will he be for long?  What is Banquo's purpose in this whole paradoxical play?  The battle is won for Scotland, but who loses? 

The themes and mood of the play are set here.  Macbeth has won the battle and the titles, but in the end he will lose because of his ambition.  Banquo is also hero, but not recognized or rewarded as openly and lucratively as Macbeth.  However, he is the real winner in this situation...he is not as well ranked as Macbeth, but he is happier and living a more pure and moral life. 

The witches add a touch of evil and the supernatural to the play.  We know they will be involved every step of the way.  The opening scene is paramount for setting us up for all the cool stuff that's coming...

 

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The opening scene of the play introduces the theme of the play and lets the audience know what to expect.  In this scene, the three Weird Sisters are conjuring.  Immediately they let the audience know that they will appear again in the play. ("When shall we three meet again"......."There to meet with Macbeth"). Next, the witches' familiars call to them, letting the audience know without a doubt that these Weird Sisters are witches.  The three end this very short scene by saying, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair;/ Hovers through the fog and filthy air." This lets the audience know that appearances will be deceiving (the antithesis in "Fair is foul...." says this).  The audience knows that truth will be obscured (the "fog"), and that bad things will happen ("...the filthy air.").  Macbeth is a play about lies, deceitful appearances, and evil among other qualities: ambitiousness, lust for power, and manipulation among those. The opening scene gets the audience hooked immediately with this spooky scene.

 

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