Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair Examples
The line "fair is foul and foul is fair" comes from William Shakespeare's Macbeth. In Macbeth, Macbeth and his wife plot to kill the king. Shakespeare uses three witches in the play as a type of chorus to foretell Macbeth's demise. They are also the voices in the play who remind the viewer that looks can be deceiving, specifically through their assertion that "fair is foul and foul is fair."
The play opens with the three witches talking in a deserted place. They talk of meeting again when they greet Macbeth, and the scene ends with these lines:
Fair is foul and foul is fair,
Hover through the fog and filthy air.
The line "fair is foul and foul is fair" means that all is not what it seems. What seems good and trustworthy is actually not; what might seem repugnant is actually good. The witches are foretelling the treachery of Macbeth, who will commit treason by killing the king.
The idea that looks and surface actions can be deceiving is repeated throughout the play (a motif). The witches themselves are ugly, but they offer what Macbeth would think are beautiful words about his rise to power. Macbeth seems heroic and loyal to the king, but he is actually a traitor. The witches seem to prophesy later in the play that Macbeth cannot be killed by man-by "one of woman born." But, he is later killed by someone who was born through a Caesarean section.
When the line "fair is foul and foul is fair" is used today, it is often used in reference to someone who appears good, trustworthy, and genuine; but who is not-looks can be deceiving. This idea is often repeated in reference to public figures, such as politicians, who have a public persona that does not match who they really are.
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