What is the significance of Brutus's last words,"Et tu, Brute" in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Marcus Brutus was a dear friend of Julius Caesar.  Even Brutus himself felt bad that he was involved in the plot to assassinate Caesar because he really had nothing personally against him.  In Act II, Scene i, of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Brutus faces a conundrum in deciding what should be his steps for the good of Rome.

 After Cassius tries to enlist Brutus into the plot to assassinate Caesar, Brutus has to have time to think.  He loves Caesar as a friend, true Roman hero, and great general.  On the other hand, as a public servant, Brutus’s has as his first priority the good of the Roman Republic and the Roman citizens. 

In trying to make up his mind to become a part of the conspiracy, Brutus spent many sleepless nights trying to find logical reasons for joining the conspiracy. 

His final reasons involved these analogies:


Think of Caesar as serpent seen in broad daylight.  The smart person would avoid it and keep from being stung.  If it is not avoided, then the serpent might bite the passerby and he would die from its venom.  This might be Caesar if given too much power.


Think of Caesar as though he is a serpent still in its egg in the nest.  As long as it remains in the egg, the serpent is harmless.  If it hatches, it will be dangerous.  So kill the snake while it is still in the egg.  The same is true of Caesar.  Kill him before he has so much power that he would be able to harm the Republic, the senators, and the people.

So, somewhat reluctantly, Brutus joins the conspiracy based on the possibility that Caesar might grow too powerful.

In Act II, Scene ii, the conspirators along with Antony show up to escort Caesar to the Capitol and later the senate.

Brutus is there as well.  Caesar seems somewhat honored that these men should come to accompany him calling them all friends.  He takes special note of Brutus and that he is honored that he has arisen so early to come with him.  Brutus also gives an aside in which he notes that Caesar may not want these so-called friends so close to him.

In Act III, Scene I, the conspirators have planned to present a case to Caesar and have him speak about it as they surround him and then stab him.  Brutus presents the case of Publius Cimber.


I kiss thy hand, but not in flattery, Caesar,

Desiring thee that Publius Cimber may

Have an immediate freedom of repeal.

 Then Cassius speaks up. All moving closer to Caesar ironically as he speaks that he is as great and constant as the Northern Star. Suddenly, Casca strikes the first blow; then all of the conspirators except for Brutus begin to stab Caesar.  He is stabbed at least 36 times.  Finally, Brutus walks toward Caesar with his dagger out.  Caesar in the final throes of death sees Brutus and in Latin states: “Et tu, Brute! And you, too Brutus.


Caesar felt that he could trust Brutus. Other than Antony, Brutus was probably he closest ally in the Roman government.  Hs inclusion into his death certainly would have surpised Caesar and greatly saddened as well.  Marc Antony says it well: This was the unkindest cut of all. 

According to Marc Antony who was not present, this burst Caesar’s heart and he fell ironically at the foot of Pompey, another great leader that Caesar had been responsible for killing. This ends the assassination.  The next move by the conspirators will be to wash their hands and dip their napkins in the blood of Caesar. 

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Julius Caesar

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