Et tu, Brute?
Et tu, Brute? (pronounced [ɛt ˈtuː ˈbruːtɛ]) is a Latin phrase meaning "and you, Brutus?" It is notable for its occurrence in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, where it is spoken by the Roman dictator Julius Caesar to his friend Marcus Junius Brutus at the moment of Caesar's assassination. The phrase's first known occurrences are said to be in two Elizabethan plays: an early play by Shakespeare, and an even earlier play that is now lost. The phrase is often used apart from the plays to signify an unexpected betrayal by a friend.
Caesar utters these words in Act III, scene 1, as he is being stabbed to death, having recognized his friend and protégé Brutus as one of the assassins. There is however no evidence that the historic Caesar spoke these words.
On March 15 (the Ides of March), 44 BCE, the historic Caesar was attacked by a group of senators, including Brutus, who was Caesar's friend and protégé. Caesar initially resisted his attackers, but when he saw Brutus, he reportedly responded as he died.
The historical Caesar's last words are not known with certainty. The Roman historian Suetonius, a century and a half after the incident, claims Caesar said nothing as he died, but that others reported that Caesar's last words were the Greek phrase "καὶ σὺ, τέκνον;". The phrase means "You too, child?" or "You too, young man?". Sometimes this is rendered in Latin as "Tu quoque, Brute, fili mi" ("You too, Brutus, my son").
In the play Julius Caesar (1599), Caesar says "Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!" Shakespeare was making use of a phrase already in use: for example it is said, by Edmond Malone, to have appeared in a work that has been lost: Richard Eedes's Latin play Caesar Interfectus of 1582. It also occurs in Shakespeare's earlier play, The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, and the death of good King Henrie the Sixth, with the Whole Contention betweene the two Houses Lancaster and Yorke of 1595, which is the earliest printed version of Henry VI, Part 3.
It has been argued that the phrase can be interpreted as a curse or threat. One theory states that the historic Caesar adapted the words of a Greek sentence which to the Romans had long since become proverbial: The complete phrase is said to have been "You too, my son, will have a taste of power," of which Caesar only needed to invoke the opening words to foreshadow Brutus' own violent death, in response to his assassination. There is a poem by Horace, Satires; Book I, Satire 7, written approximately 30 BC, that mentions Brutus and his tyrannicide; in discussing that poem, author John Henderson considers that the expression "E-t t-u Br-u-t-e", (as he hyphenates it), can be interpreted as a complaint containing a "suggestion of mimetic compulsion".
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- Gill, N. S., "Latin – Vocative endings", About.com, retrieved 2012-09-16
- ...uno modo ad primum ictum gemitu sine voce edito; etsi tradiderunt quidam Marco Bruto irruenti dixisse "καὶ σύ, τέκνον". De Vita Caesarum, Liber I, Divus Iulius, LXXXII.
- Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Julius Caesar 82.2
- Billows, Richard A. (2009). Julius Caesar: The Colossus of Rome. London: Routledge. pp. 249–250. ISBN 978-0-415-33314-6.
- Plutarch, The Parallel Lives, Life of Caesar 66.9
- Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 1, Line 77
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