Monday, 15 March 2021

bewarned the ides of march

Though speculation and debate has continued for centuries, shifting from one camp to another with the present academic consensus rejecting the Shakespearian conceit that an unmitigated reaction to being assassinated would have been in Latin, scholarship has Julius Caesar (previously here and here) speaking Greek καὶ σύ, τέκνον; (And you child?) with a somewhat different landing than Et tu Brute? The latter is only attested to in the Middle Ages and in accordance with Roman custom, it would have been more honourable, in the case of the former with Caesar being a long-time romantic companion of Servilia—mother of Marcus Junius Brutus—to have him die silently as a soldier. Some academics say it was misheard and more likely Caesar said “Tu quoque, fili mi?”—which is closer to the Greek—or “Quæso te, non!” –Stop it, please! and even the playwright seems to acknowledge the debate or unknowable nature of it with the earlier idiom in the tragedy, It’s all Greek to me, said by Casca to Cassius on Cicero and the co-conspirators, “…but those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part it was Greek to me.” It is perhaps doubtful that even a great orator could summon the wherewithal to deliver some famous last words after being stabbed twenty-three times by a mob of mutinous senators. Despite the line’s purchase on popular culture, even within the framework of the play itself, the last utterance before expiring is “Then fall, Caesar.”