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Et Tu, Brute?

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"We flatter those we scarcely know,
We please the fleeting guest,
And deal full many a thoughtless blow
To those who love us best"
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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Some heroes and heroines can take a huge amount of trouble and danger in their stride. Big Bad out to get them? Yesterday's news. Death Traps to the left and right of them? Snore. The End of the World as We Know It? They already know, thanks, and they're working on it. These characters know that a burden rests on their shoulders and don't let it get them down.

There's only one thing that can bring a seemingly invincible character to their knees: Betrayal.

Having the entire Evil Empire out to get them isn't a big deal as long as they have their True Companions watching their backs. But if one of the chosen few should renege, the hero will go to pieces.

It doesn't have to be anything as dramatic as switching sides or selling out to the Big Bad. If one makes a few scathing comments about their leadership skills, or another holds the hero responsible for his Cynicism Catalyst, the results can be as devastating as though they'd painted a target on their pal's head and handed out sniper rifles.

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Can be Played for Laughs if their reaction is clearly an overreaction — surviving a cave-in, an ambush, and a death trap without breaking a sweat, only to burst out into tears when his girlfriend forgets his birthday, for example. Generally it's anything but funny; most people can relate to having someone important let them down. Even if it's an overreaction it may reveal exactly how much stress the character is under.

A second version of this trope is where the hero has already given their buddy a second chance, overlooking past (or even current) misdeeds in the interest of preserving the friendship and deciding to accept their pal just the way they are, warts and all... as long as their misdemeanors are confined to people who aren't the hero or their immediate family. Should that unspoken truce be broken, a massive Freak Out is only seconds away, followed by Post-Support Regret.

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A third version of this trope comes when the hero or the villain develops a bond with someone, only to discover that the person in question was never his friend, and just pretended to be one. Often followed by the obvious next question, Was It All a Lie?

This is, of course, Truth in Television — the vast majority of us care far more about what our parents, friends, and family think than what Joe Bloggs down the street may say about us.

Particularly brutal if the victim is betrayed by the ones who supposedly rescued him from a Friendless Background, or if they desperately seek friendship above all else. A Sadistic Choice, Break His Heart to Save Him or Because You Can Cope excuse may be made if the victim's "betrayer" felt as though they had no choice but to abandon them. If the characters in question were friends with each other prior to the betrayal, it probably triggers Face–Heel Turn, Evil Former Friend, and We Used to Be Friends. Often overlaps with Insidious Rumor Mill. Compare and contrast Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure, where the friend merely leaves rather than outright betrays him. Betrayal by Offspring is similar except that the betrayal is done by a character's son or daughter.

The Trope Namer is Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, where Caesar reacts with shock at seeing Brutus among his murderers. note  "Et tu" means "and you?" or idiomatically "even you?"


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Arts 
  • One purpose of The Last Supper is to depict the Apostles' collective surprise upon learning one of their own has betrayed them. Besides Jesus, none of them knows who the traitor is, but the shadows don't lie, and neither does Judas's expression.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix:
    • It has a running gag about the historical event, but the trope is only named after it, it is not about historical references to the actual death of Caesar.
    • In Asterix and Caesar's Gift, the idea of using the Magic Potion to throw Orthopedix out when he challenges Vitalstatistix for chiefdom is vetoed by Getafix, who refuses to let his magic be misused, and leaves. When Asterix follows Getafix, Vitalstatistix dramatically laments, "Et tu, Asterix? Then fall, Vitalstatistix, fall!"
    • At the end of Asterix and Son, Caesar learns that Brutus was behind the plot to kidnap his and Cleopatra's son Caesaron, and berates him with the infamous, "Et tu, Brute?"
  • Basic premise of Avengers Disassembled. The Avengers were facing many threats, villains, and betrayals. But one of their core members, somebody they deeply trusted, suddenly snapping and trying to kill them, with clarification she's Not Brainwashed, was enough to disband the team.
  • In one Batman comic, Two-Face was genuinely reformed and about to leave Arkham. Then the Joker came along and started messing with him that his best friend Bruce Wayne and his girlfriend were together. As a final push, the Joker slipped an already suspicious Two-Face a fake newspaper that Bruce and his girlfriend were marrying. He broke out of Arkham to kill Bruce.
  • In Lilith, Commodus has a rather peculiar one when the time-traveling title character allows him to catch his would-be assassins Eclectus (his chamberlain), Narcissus (his personal trainer and sparring partner), and Marcia (his Christian concubine) in the act, remarking not on their friendship but on their utter stupidity in betraying the one man who put them in positions of power, keeps them there against the opposition of the Roman Senate, and, especially, adopted policies favorable to the Christians just to favor Marcia (who, after being caught betraying Commodus, became the first victim of a new persecution).
  • In the comic series Preacher, Jesse quickly forms a best buddies relationship with Irish vampire Cassidy, travelling across half the world to save him at one point. But it's not long before Cassidy is trying it on with his girlfriend and later, after Jesse's apparent death, Cassidy manages to seduce her, getting her hooked on drugs in the process. When Jesse comes back (after learning of a long line of similar screw-ups in Cassidy's past), he's not exactly pleased.
    • There's a scene when Jesse comes back, sees his girlfriend kissing Cassidy, and faints.
  • In PS238, Zodon's 'childhood escapades' took a decisive turn for the worse once he overheard his parents discussing whether it'd be better if he wasn't a metahuman.
  • Robin (1993): This is Tim Drake's basic reaction to realizing that the Bad Future (caused by the fall of his hero friends) he'd been obsessively trying to find ways to avoid was Batman's idea of a test.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), Princess Sally is forced to use Bunnie's old roboticizer in order to combat Mecha Sonic (Sonic put through Unwilling Roboticization) and plans on using it on someone. Rotor brings it out and points out that doing so might put them at Robotnik's level. Sally replies "Et tu, Rotor?", then points out that they've kinda hit the Godzilla Threshold at this point.
  • In Supergirl storyline Red Daughter of Krypton, judge Sheko sentences her planet's prince to death. Of course, she expected to be assassinated; but she did not expect her own court's guard to turn around and point his gun at her. Sheko sarcastically calls him a puppet and tells him to earn his payment.
    Sheko: "Oh. They bought you too, didn't they? Very well, puppet. Be the king's messenger. Show this world that justice is dead."
  • Ultimate X-Men: Magneto reacted to all the attacks with disdain until his helmet (that prevents mind attacks on him) was removed by Quicksilver. His son, the one he always treated like dirt.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Cars 2, Lightning McQueen gets this after his best friend Mater causes him to lose a race in the World Grand Prix.
  • Coco: Even after 96 years, Héctor never once suspected that his best friend would have killed him for his songs, though he knew that Ernesto never gave him the credit he deserved. He's completely shocked by the revelation that he was not only betrayed by his best friend, but murdered by him.
  • Happens in Frozen when Anna is taken back to Hans, her fiance, so that they can share true love's kiss to melt her frozen heart. Just as they were about to kiss, Hans reveals his true intentions; he never loved Anna. It was all an act to get closer to the throne of Arendelle. Anna is in a state of complete disbelief at such a revelation.
  • In Hercules, Meg is working for Hades, although not evil. When Phil tried to show this to the titular character instead of listening in on her conversation with the villain to see if she will go through with his plan or not, Hercules doesn't believe him until Hades ended up revealing it to him, putting him into a Heroic BSoD from it.
    • Zeus had this look when he realized that Hades was behind the release of the Titans, their assault on Olympus and was plotting to overthrow the king of the gods for quite some time.
  • Played with in Incredibles 2. Helen is shocked and betrayed that Evelyn is the Screenslaver and that her plan is to smear the image of Supers in the eyes of the public permanently. Evelyn quickly retorts that they barely knew each other, they were hardly best friends or anything.
  • A case where the betrayal actually does cause a Face–Heel Turn: Kung Fu Panda, during Tai Lung's Start of Darkness. Master Shifu betrays his prize pupil and adopted son — not by denying him the Dragon Scroll, but by raising him to believe he was destined to one day earn it as a matter of course, filling him with pride and dreams...and then, when Oogway advised otherwise, refusing to defend, stand up for, or even support his son. No wonder the snow leopard went insane and goes on his Rage Against the Mentor.
  • Happens in The Lion King when Scar throws his brother, Mufasa, to his death.
  • The Lorax has an implied example of this. After his Heel–Face Turn and Blatant Lies, the Once-Ler offers Pipsqueak a marshmallow, thinking that he had one friend among the animals whose home he ruthlessly destroyed for the approval and love of his family. The little Barbaloot gives him one short look and exits with the rest of the animals.
  • Henry J. Waternoose III to James P. Sullivan in Monsters, Inc..
  • Shrek the Third: Princess Fiona and the other Princesses' betrayal by Rapunzel, who was in love with Prince Charming.
  • In Zootopia: At the press conference, Judy repeats the theory from the unnamed doctor at Cliffside Asylum that predators may be "going savage" due to their biology and were "reverting to their primitive state" for some unknown reason. Nick, hearing this from the person he has opened up to about his traumatic childhood experience with racism against predators, feels personally betrayed and is deeply upset, leading to their Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure.

    Jokes 
  • An oldie but a goodie: Q. What did Caesar say when Brutus stabbed him? A. "Ouch!"

    Music 

    Myths & Religion 
  • Played with in The Four Gospels regarding Judas' betrayal of Jesus and Peter's denial of Jesus. Both acts are treated as shocking, but Jesus foretells both occurrences. Jesus later forgives Peter after His resurrection, and Peter once again becomes the lead disciple. Judas, however, never lives it down.
  • Book of Psalms: Psalms 41 and especially 55 both describe this type of betrayal. The Gospel writers point to these psalms as prophesying Judas' betrayal.
    My companion stretched out his hand against his friends
    He violated his covenant
    His speech was smooth as butter
    Yet war was in heart
    His words were softer than oil
    Yet they were drawn swords

    Psalm 55:20-21

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Bob Backlund had this feeling after his manager, Arnold Skaaland, caused him to lose the WWF championship to The Iron Sheik by throwing in the towel.
  • The Undertaker had this reaction when Paul Bearer turned on him for Mankind in a boiler room brawl.
  • Raven was really hurt when Perry Saturn left his Flock in WCW. More, Raven did not even know he could be hurt in that way anymore until it happened.
  • CM Punk felt this way when Paul Heyman cost him a Money In The Bank Ladder match.
  • Astro Rey Jr after his La Ola Blanca partners Hijo del Dr. Wagner and Médico Asesino Jr. attacked him and left Astro Rey for the Clown Corp during the World Wrestling League's 2014 Dream Matches Tour.
  • On the Raw after the 2022 Hell in a Cell, it looked like Finn Bálor was going to join Edge, Damian Priest, and Rhea Ripley as the Judgment Day's fourth member...but instead, the three decided to turn on their leader with Priest mentioning the Rated-R Superstar as the one holding them back. Edge was puzzled by this revelation.
  • Rey Mysterio's reaction to his son Dominik low blowing the luchador and Edge after winning against the Judgment Day at Clash at the Castle 2022 is this...yet Rey would still believe that there is still some good in Dominik's tainted heart even after joining the Judgment Day's stead.

    Roleplay 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition mentions in the Codex Of Betrayal articles, which chronicle the origin of devils and their war against the god known only as He Who Was. It's said that when Asmodeus, leader of the rebellion, convinced Greyon, HWW's favorite angel, to side against him, the god cried such tears as to drown mountains, and after such a betrayal, his heart was no longer in the war.

    Theater 
  • The titular character of Donizetti's opera Anna Bolena (Anne Boleyn) has one of these moments upon discovering that her best friend and handmaid, Giovanna/Jane Seymour is the woman driving Enrico/Henry VIII's plan to get her executed. But Anna forgives Giovanna upon finding out that she is sorry and is as trapped by the situation as she herself is.
  • For the eponymous Hun king in Attila, it’s not much of a surprise that some people want to kill him. However, when he sees his beloved new bride among the plotters, he is so shocked he doesn’t even defend himself when she stabs him.
  • Older Than Steam: The trope name comes from William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. As the assassins attack, Caesar defends himself... but when he sees Brutus, his best friend, among the assassins, he gives up and lets himself be murdered — he didn't care about a bunch of strangers armed with pointy things, but having his buddy stab him is another story entirely. The full quote is: "Et tu, Brute? note  Then fall, Caesar." Marc Antony during Caesar's funeral would say of Brutus's betrayal that his was "the most unkindest cut of all."
    • One alternate interpretation of the line is less of a question and more of a statement, as in "You're next." In real life, Brutus only lived another two years after the death of Caesar.
  • Max Bialystok calls Leo this in The Producers when he receives a postcard from Brazil and learns what happened to Ula and Leo along with other infamous traitors in history. Both come back and Max reconciles with Leo.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the science-fiction visual novel Bionic Heart, the protagonist ends up hiding a fugitive android in his apartment because she needs his help in her ontological quest. If the main character chooses to confide in his best friend and coworker Tom, Tom ends up giving up both the protagonist and the android to the police, which leaves them in the hands of the corrupt corporate executives that were pursuing the android in the first place.
  • Tohsaka to Archer in Fate/stay night's Unlimited Blade Works route. After keeping calm throughout the story, she's devastated and doesn't hide it terribly well when he betrays her twice. On the plus side, the event is a catalyst for her Relationship Upgrade with Shirou. It's also a real bonding experience for her with Lancer.
    • Hell, this trope is the only reason Saber exists. Although she fought virtually the entire world as King of England, and never lost a single battle for 12 years, she died at the hands of her own trusted men and specifically by the hands of her "son" Mordred, though Mordred likely saw it as answering a betrayal of her own for shunning her true identity. As well as Archer, who ended up getting betrayed and killed by the very people he dedicated his life to protect.
  • Villainous example in Galaxy Angel Moonlit Lovers. In Chapter 4, Nefuria suddenly backstabs Rezon Mayzon by attacking his ship, revealing that she'd just been playing him all along. Then she remotely takes control of his ship, sending it in a collision course against the elsior before activating a self-destruct mechanism, killing him in an explosion. Even the Elsior's crew is outraged by this.
  • Katawa Shoujo: when Hisao is forcefully woken up by Shizune and Misha, this trope is humorously invoked.

    Web Animation 
  • Tends to be common in GoAnimate grounded videos, where the troublemaker's "friends" will rat them out if the chips are down. If the character is in court, expect the friend to testify against them.
  • Deconstructed in Mystery Skulls Animated. Lewis was killed by his possessed and horrified friend, Arthur, and now seeks Arthur's death in revenge.
  • Daniel Sun's Power Star has a subversion in that although Luigi speaks with utter shock seconds before his brother Mario kills him as though he has betrayed him, he's perfectly aware that Mario is suffering from Demonic Possession and therefore has not willingly committed an out-and-out act of treason.
    Luigi: [While being stabbed through the upper-lip area] Muh... Mario?

    Webcomics 
  • In the backstory of Girl Genius, Gil and Tarvek were best friends as children on Castle Wulfenbach — Tarvek was the son of a prince, and Gil was an orphan who didn't know his family in a school where everyone was related to royalty. Gil helps Tarvek sneak around the Castle to spy on behalf of his father, and in return Tarvek breaks into a top-security vault to try and find out who Gil's family are. After Gil is found and taken to the Baron, he is told that he's actually the Baron's son and that he's been manipulated by the son of an enemy into spying on his only family, although Word of God says that he's also Zeetha's twin. To him, telling the Baron where Tarvek hides his encrypted notes is an act of loyalty. To Tarvek, he's just been stabbed in the back after trying to help his friend and ends up getting sent back to his Big, Screwed-Up Family who all want to kill each other. More than a decade later, and they still resent each other.
  • I Don't Want This Kind of Hero: Raptor genuinely did care for Baek Morae, making it all the worse for her when he betrayed that trust. Even in the present, when asked to write down about her experiences with him in the interest of information, she can only reflect on the happy memories she had with him, before tearing up the paper.
  • In this Looking for Group strip.
    • It's interesting to note that it seems to have been played for laughs as well as (some) drama, instead of one or the other, but that's to be expected of LFG in general and Richard in particular.
    • The real Et Tu Brute moment is when Cale learns that Pella killed their own soldiers to force Cale to retreat and therefore survive. He knows that his allies aren't the most moral of people, but he thought that she was more idealistic like him.
  • In MegaTokyo, Largo himself points out, in an unusually serious tone, how painful a betrayal can be. In fact, much of his dislike for Miho, previously Played for Laughs, stems from her once being their friend online in an MMORPG gameverse (and seducing Piro's character) before viciously betraying them. This is hinted as part of the reason he is so mistrustful of relationships, something Erika brands as fairly laughable at first before realising how seriously he took it.
  • Ménage à 3: The trope is invoked by name, for comedy, by Emo Drama Queen Angel, when various people who Angel should know are unreliable or hostile prove unreliable or hostile in quick succession. The joke is that Angel has just claimed to be "like a genderfluid Julius Caesar"...
  • Slightly Damned features a subversion: Buwaro and Rhea are forced to pretend they are members of Hell's army and take Kieri hostage to prevent her from going down fighting against three demons; at least one of them didn't care about capturing her alive and straight-up wanted to kill her. With this plan, though, they at least have a chance of rescuing her and her brother (who was also captured) while posing as bad guys. However, Buwaro and Rhea's inner thoughts show that they are immensely regretful about this, despite their good intentions. Kieri, naturally, is deeply hurt by this, and it takes several days for her to forgive Buwaro, or even speak to him at all. Her Loyal Animal Companion, Crunky, however, has grown to despise Buwaro for this act, either staring daggers at him or outright attacking him whenever she sees him.
  • In A Tale of Two Rulers, Ghirahim's betrayal of Ganondorf's trust is clearly seen as this.
  • Tower of God — Rachel's betrayal of The Hero Bam is the pinnacle of Season 1. Her betrayal completely breaks him and she gets a free ride from his companions who think they are doing a favor in his legacy. This is also a reason why Rachel is a Walking Spoiler since much about her is kept secret until that point.
  • In Weak Hero, though Gerard never got along with his old bandmate Hyeonjin, he was thoroughly enamoured with Hyeonjin's music and connected to it in a way that no-one else did. This made it hurt all the more when Hyeonjin quit the band, revealed that he never cared about it in the first place, and that the music he made meant nothing to him. This is part of what contributes to Gerard crossing the Despair Event Horizon.

    Web Original 
  • Chakona Space: In Chapter 7 of Tales of the Folly, Neal has been injured in some spaceport drama. Not only are his mates, companions, and children trying to tie him down in a sickbay bed, so is his ship. He then proceeds to quote Julius Caesar.
  • In Worm, Rachel Lindt, a supervillain, takes it badly when it's revealed that Taylor, quite possibly the only friend that she's ever had, is an aspiring superhero who joined Rachel's gang with the intent to betray them to the authorities. Their friendship afterwards is strained to the point of breaking.

    Web Videos 
  • Dream: In the ending of his Speedrunner VS 2 Hunters video, George kills Sapnap when he believes that Dream, who is falling into the void, has lost. This reckless move costs him the entire game, as Dream manages to get one of Sapnap's Ender Pearls before he can fall far enough to die, allowing him to get back onto safe ground and kill George — had George just done nothing, he would have won without question.
  • The Nostalgia Critic has done this in both That Guy with the Glasses anniversary specials: in the brawl to 2D Lee because he sided with the gamers over the critics and in Kickassia to Film Brain when he turned against Critic because he accidentally killed Santa Christ.
  • In Episode 355 of Stampy's Lovely World, "Friends and Foes", Veeva Dash, a trusted Helper who was secretly Evil All Along, lures Stampy into a trap, poisons him, and helps HitTheTarget summon a Wither to kill him and destroy his world.
  • The Weather: Downplayed; after the mountain meets a friendly cloud, played by a caller, another group of clouds show up to bully him. When the caller-cloud joins in, the mountain gets sad, saying he thought the two of them were "building rapport".

    Real Life 
  • Civil wars are often bloodier than "regular" wars because of this trope.
  • There isn't any reliable source that Julius Caesar actually said this in real life, but most accounts agree that Caesar at first attempted to fight off his assassins, but gave up struggling when he spotted Brutus amongst them. According to Roman historian Suetonius, some people claim Caesar said something similar, but it was actually in Greek: kai su, teknon? means "You too, my son?" Another Roman historian, Plutarch, writes that Caesar said nothing at all, but he pulled his toga over his head when he saw Brutus among the conspirators.
  • Warren G. Harding epitomized this trope when he once remarked to William Allen White: "I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies all right. But my damn friends, my god-damned friends, White, they're the ones who keep me walking the floor nights!"
  • Cao Cao had a childhood friend named Zhang Miao. Zhang Miao had a falling out with another of their old friends named Yuan Shao, who at the time was acting as Cao Cao's nominal superior. Yuan Shao asked Cao Cao to execute Zhang Miao for him, but Cao declined to do so. However, when Cao was invading the province of Xu in 194, Zhang Miao (fearing Cao would eventually do as Yuan asked) led a group of conspirators to invite the wandering warlord Lu Bu into Cao's territory and take over.
    • The kicker is that Cao Cao was invading Xu in order to avenge his father and brother, who'd just been murdered. While Zhang Miao himself escaped Cao Cao's wrath (by being murdered by his own men), Cao exterminated his family; the usual punishment for treason.
  • Oda Nobunaga has had his life full of brutal conquests, other clans conspiring against him and people gunning for his head. He crushed all of them no problem. But when his retainer Akechi Mitsuhide that he trusted for being competent suddenly turned against him at Honnoji, combined with his minimum troops there, Nobunaga instead chose to commit seppuku rather than fighting to the end.
  • A lot of people in real life had a situation when a supposedly close friend violated their trust and understandably, friendship ended afterwards.


 
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Marcy's True Colors

With King Andrias revealing Marcy's secret, both Anne and Sasha are forced to confront the awful truth that their own best friend was responsible for trapping them in Amphibia in the first place.

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