Et tu, Brute?

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Et tu, Brute? may be translated as ‘You too, Brutus?’ or ‘Even you, Brutus?’ and is said by Caesar in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Act III, scene 1, line 77) moments before his death at the hands of the conspirators. The rhetorical question is addressed to his friend Marcus Junius Brutus, one of the conspirators, and may be expanded as ‘You too, Brutus – are you one of those who have come to kill me?’ It is not clear from the text of Shakespeare’s play whether the question is an expression of surprise or sadness or indignation or a mixture of all three emotions.

Brute (which is pronounced as two syllables, IPA: /'bruː tɛ/) is the vocative form of the proper name Brutus: in old-fashioned grammars it would be translated as ‘O Brutus!’

There is little reason to believe that the scene in Shakespeare’s play reflects historical reality, that Julius Caesar actually said Et tu, Brute? as he fell dying. According to the most reliable extant account of the assassination, in the De vita Caesarum (‘On the Lives of the Caesars’) of Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (c.70-c.140 CE), Caesar died without saying anything – though Suetonius does mention, without endorsing, a source which claimed that Caesar’s last words were the Greek phrase Καὶ σύ, τέκνον; (Kai su, teknon? - ‘You too, child?’) and were addressed to Brutus.

Nowadays Et tu Brute? may be said as a reproach to a friend whom one takes to be guilty of having betrayed one in some way – though the expression is often used jocularly or light-heartedly, and the ‘betrayal’ may relate to some trivial matter.