This is Macbeth"s first line of the play, and it is notable that it echoes the witches" line from the first scene in which they say, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair." The paradoxical nature of both these lines sets up the play"s theme of duplicity and deceptive appearances, the idea that not all is as it seems.

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In act 1, scene 1, the three witches chant as one:

Fair is foul, and fouls is fair;Hover through the fog and filthy air.

From the very beginning, Shakespeare essentially sets both the mood and the main theme of the play; he foreshadows the events that are about to...


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In act 1, scene 1, the three witches chant as one:

Fair is foul, and fouls is fair;Hover through the fog and filthy air.

From the very beginning, Shakespeare essentially sets both the mood and the main theme of the play; he foreshadows the events that are about to occur and tells or even warns the readers that nothing is what it seems. Ambition is just another word for blind thirst for power; beauty is a mask for the ugliness within—a fair face may hide a foul heart. Appearances can be deceiving.

The quote also represents the characters of the witches—creatures that don"t particularly care for the concepts of good and evil; for them, good and evil coexist together—implying what"s good might actually be evil, and what"s evil might actually be good. Nature, be it actual nature or human nature, is lawless and everything and everyone is corruptible.

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Finally, the quote represents Macbeth, the titular character and protagonist of the play, as well as Lady Macbeth. At first, general Macbeth is a just and trustworthy general and a good and loyal friend to the king. Soon, however, he becomes a cold-blooded killer; a man who, despite feeling guilty and even regretful, allows his ambition to overpower his morality. Lady Macbeth is an intelligent and well-mannered woman—a lovely and respected lady. Underneath that likely beautiful and intelligent face, however, is a cunning and unscrupulous soul, someone who will not hesitate to do despicable deeds in order to gain power and fame.