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    #1

    Fair is foul, and foul is fair.

    Dear teachers and NES,

    I have a very brief and unambiguous question:

    What does the phrase "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" mean as expressed in Shakespeare's play Macbeth, act one, scene 1 line 11.

    The problem lie in the confused answer, which I found at a side in my computer, namely:

    "TRUE"

    and an enigma

    If you have ever had someone do something to you that was rotten, but they were perfectly within their rights to do so you would know. Just because something is morally wrong does not make it legally so. So the dirty deed, although morally wrong, was fair (as in retribution), and even through the dirty deed was fair it was also wrong or undeserved.

    I hope that you wouldn't find it difficult to give an reasonable answer.

    Thank you in advance for your efforts.

    Regards.

    V.
    Last edited by vil; 06-Jan-2008 at 07:07.


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    #2

    Re: Fair is foul, and foul is fair.

    My Shakespeare is not handy at the moment, but the general meaning as I recall is 'you can't judge a book by its cover'-- things that seem foul may be fair, and vice versa.

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    #3

    Re: Fair is foul, and foul is fair.

    Hi_there_Carl,

    Thank you for your explanation. There is probably a grain of truth in your words. But in my humble opinion, has nothing yo do with a book, but with the life. I suppose that we have to interpret the meaning of this expression on a gigantic scale. This expression is a deep Shakespeare's insight, which probably
    have a worldwide importance with a contemporary sounding.

    For your information, the mentioned above line is from the choral speaking of the three witches, amid thunder and lighting, while a battle is in progress. They arrange to meet Macbeth when the fight is over.

    Padlock calls. Anon.
    Fair is foul, and foul is fair.
    Hover through the fog and filthy air.

    I,m sure, there are ciphered concealed meanings in every single word. Let us try and find a way to decipher this message.

    Thank you again for your attention an your willingness to express your opinion. I know, the people of Ohio are ever in fighting trim. There is a reason you are from a state which is a birthplace of eight U.S. presidents.


    Regards.

    V.
    Last edited by vil; 06-Jan-2008 at 07:07.


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    #4

    Re: Fair is foul, and foul is fair.

    Careful - the road to hell is paved with attempts to decipher concealed messages in Shakespeare.


    Second Witch
    9 Paddock calls. Paddock = toad. Toads were believed to have magical and devilish powers.
    Third Witch
    10 Anon. Soon/shortly

    ALL
    11 Fair is foul, and foul is fair: "What is beautiful is ugly and what is ugly is beautiful" [= the witches]
    12 Hover through the fog and filthy air. Witches were believed to fly through the air, usually on broomsticks.

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    #5

    Re: Fair is foul, and foul is fair.

    Hi Anglika,

    Thank you for your high erudite reply. There is a reason you are Nr.1 among the whole moderators' host. I remember your superb interpretation of Matthew Arnold's "Dover beach" as well as the hundred other similarly excellent written posts.

    Concerning the present explanation I would subjoin my opinion to the point.

    "anon" = "We are coming! We're be right here!

    "fair is foul, and foul is fair." = "the good and bad are confused; there is an evil influence."

    "Hover through the fog and filthy air."

    Probably, there is a hint towards to forthcoming danger damaging the thin
    Earth's envelop of breathable air, which is a powerful shield against the hovering danger from radiation. Without ozone, this radiation would kill off our nucleic acids and make life on the Earth impossible. High-altitude carbon dioxide dioxide ups off the atmosphere like a greenhouse window. Visible energy from the sun passes through, and Earth absorbs it. When Earth re-radiates that energy as long-wavelength infrared energy, the CO won't let it been out.

    The only question is "Will we let the balance of carbon dioxide rise to the point where our atmosphere become a sauna bath?"

    Do you remember the speech of Dane, Hamlet about the air?

    "it appears no other thing than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors."

    See, Anglika, I will ponder certainly over your well-meaning reminder at the beginning of your last post above. Really, I liked that skillful made proverb's modification.

    Regards.

    V.


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    #6

    Re: Fair is foul, and foul is fair.

    Macbeth's very opening line is "So foul and fair a day I have not yet seen" :so many men have been slaughtered in battle, yet he has achieved a great victory.
    The words are echoed by the witches in the form, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair: / Hover through the fog and filthy air". Witches at that time were creatures of the night and the devil. They gravitate to what is "foul" and shun the "fair" (as Dracula hides from the sun centuries later). They depart, to"hover" in the fog, and in the dust and dirt, waiting for their chance to do further evil. The very fact that they incite Macbeth with their 'prophesies' of future greatness - which as soon as Lady Macbeth hears of it, incites her to plan to kill Duncan) - is an instance of how they spread evil. Look at how these foul, loathsome, ugly creatures are yet the source of and impart such 'fair' tidings to Macbeth in the way of their 'prophesies'.
    A day foul, yet fair for Macbeth; for witches, fair is foul and foul is fair” The truth of this paradox is woven throughout the play, in how situations appear to be good when in reality they are evil (or vice versa). All people have the capability of being good and appearing evil as well as being evil and appearing good.
    That's the meaning of the words, and the theme of Macbeth for me.
    Last edited by David L.; 06-Jan-2008 at 11:08.


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    #7

    Re: Fair is foul, and foul is fair.

    Thanks, David - good explanation.

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    #8

    Re: Fair is foul, and foul is fair.

    Hi DavidL,

    I am struck of admiration of your likely explanation. Words fail me to express my satisfaction.

    Thank you, thank you again for your perspicacity as well as for you brilliant,
    profound analysis of the mentioned above phrase.

    Thank you for the exerted efforts.

    Regards.

    V.

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