What is the meaning of "Fair is foul; foul is fair" in Macbeth?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In act 1, scene 1, the Three Witches comment on how they will meet again upon the heath, where they shall introduce themselves to Macbeth. Before they exit the scene, the witches recite, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air" (Shakespeare, 1.1.12–13). The phrase "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" is a paradox and motif that runs throughout the entire play and essentially means that appearances are deceiving. The phrase is considered a paradox because it is a statement that seems to contradict itself but contains a hidden truth. According to the phrase, whatever seems good is really bad, while the things that appear to be bad are actually good. There are numerous examples of appearances being deceiving found throughout the play, beginning with Macbeth 's seemingly optimistic prophecy about becoming King of Scotland. While the prophecy seems positive, it influences...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 452 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Posted on