Anonymous: "Wherefore art thou" is not the same as "Where art thou?" "Where art thou?" really does mean "where are you?". "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" means "Why are you Romeo?" It is Juliet asking why does Romeo have to be from the rival family of Montague. The Capulets (Juliet's family) and the Montagues (Romeo's family) were feuding. Think Hatfields and McCoys.
I wonder where the phrase "[O (insert name)], where art thou?" comes from. And could anyone explain the meaning to me as well, although I can imagine it. I've seen it quite often recently in different variations, like in the movie "O Brother, ..." or even "O Google, ..." .
I think that the nature of the phrase allows many to believe its context refers to the story of Cain and Abel from the Book of Genesis for several reasons:
1) The "O Brother" part of the phrase may have various modern-day conotations, such as in phrases like, "Brother can you spare a dime?", "Band of Brothers" (ala, the movie of the same name), or several religious or fraternal orders in which your fellow member is considered to be "your brother."
2) Yet, the first story about "brothers" is the biblical one of Cain and Abel, and this phrase seems to conjure up that story in most people's mind whenever it is referenced.
3) The "Where Art Thou?" part of the phrase has two biblical conotations, especially with the use of the word "Thou" instead of "You". The first, of course, is the Cain and Abel story in which (by translation of the story), God first asks Cain about Abel: (9) "And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?" (10) "And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground." If you follow along these lines, you can easily picture Cain then asking this question forever as he was cast out into the land of Nod, "O my Brother, Where art thou?"
The other biblical reference that comes close to this is Jesus turning his head to the heavens and asking, "Father, why have you forsaken me?". though that neither has direct reference to a "brother" or "thou", we could paraphrase this question as a statement: "Father, thou has abandoned me." So, as in the original question, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", both of the words, "Brother" and "Thou" instill these biblical conotations when it is ever asked.
The word "brother" also conotes various usage such as: "brothers in arms", (at war or in battle), "comrades", "fraternal brothers", "twin brothers", "brothers of the union", "brothers of the church, or Catholic school", "O, my brothers" (as in the novel and movie, "A Clockwork Orange" where Alex uses the word "brothers" to mean the audience of fellow men he is addressing his tale of suffering), and many more. Thus, in the Coen Brothers' movie, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" has multiple meanings and conotations: the first being "brother" as meaning his fellow chain gang or prison inmates, or an American phrase of the times (the Great Depression) where the word "brother" denoted that all men were bound together in times of this economic hardship, remeniscent of the speech made in "The Grapes of Wrath", or perhaps Jimmy Hoffa's speeches to the Teamsters meaning, "brothers of the union", etc. Another context is in the expression we often use when we are unpleasantly surprised with a negative event, we then say, "O brother!" (short for, "O brother!, not this again!" or "O brother, now what?"). Delmar's search for Pete after he was turned into a "horny toad" by the Sirens, (according to him), also relates to the question of "O My Brother Pete, Where Art Thou?".
In the movie, "There Will Be Blood", Eli uses the word "brothers" when addressing his congregation of his church, and also cries out to Daniel Plainview, "But we're brothers!" when Plainview assaults him at the end of the story.
Today, perhaps a more cynical response to any such statement containing the word "brother", such as, "Brother can you spare a dime, or the time?" might be, "Well, I'm not your brother!" (which by relationship could have spawned from Cain's response to the Lord, "Am I my brother's keeper?").
However, in general, we can assume that the word "brothers" to mean, men who belong to a certain group, family, fraternity, clan, union, party, church, order, society, prison, social club, employment, boat or ship, army, political group or party, country or nation, ethnic origin, race, creed, color, and so forth.
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The 'wherefore' here means why rather than where. What Juliet is asking, in allusion to the feud between her Capulet family and Romeo's Montague clan, is 'Romeo, why are you a Montague?'. Their love is impossible because of their family names and she asks him to change his allegiance, or else she will change hers.
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.
Anonymous: There is an episode of the Simpsons made in '91 with same title as the movie, prompting my own search, and I am frustrated as well to the origin of the phrase, my internet search stumbling across this page. O brother, where art thou, where did you come from?
Anonymous: Heck, don't you see that the question HAS been answered above? The most famous (and oldest) origin of the quote actually is the Old Testament: After the Fall, God asks Adam: "Where art thou?", which is different from a simple "Where are you" given that it is a somewhat rhetoric question (God knows where Adam is, it is mainly a conversation opener mourning the lost connection between the two of them).
CliveHi,thou art there when one needs thee - thanks for an interesting introspection.
I wonder where the phrase "[O (insert name)], where art thou?" comes from. And could anyone explain the meaning to me as well, although I can imagine it.I've seen it quite often recently in different variations, like in the movie "O Brother, ..." or even "O Google, ..." .
Did you try to search via Google? I dodid, and found this information in 1 minute.
The title O Brother, Where Art Thou? is, in fact, an allusion to another movie. In Preston Sturges' 1941 film Sullivan's Travels, the title character is a wealthy Hollywood filmmaker who (in the midst of the Depression) decides to make a film about the suffering of the "common people" in order to redeem himself from the usual commercial pap he has been wont to produce. Drawing his inspiration from fictional novel, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," written by "Sinclair Beckstein"-a clear allusion to the "realist" novels of Upton Sinclair and John Steinbeck-Sullivan sets off in hobo garb in order to experience first hand some "common people" of his own. By a series of highly comic accidents, Sullivan eventually winds up on a prison chain gang in the South.
I found this excerpt, and more , on this site. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma05/cline/obrother/free6/obrother9.htm
Of course, you might also want to check a few other sites, to see if anyone offers a different suggestion.
Best wishes, Clive
btw, had it occured to you, the allusions may somehow relate to the bible?
like kain and abel story?
Where art thou? is an old version of saying where are you?
I cannot get what do you mean by where does it come from?
this phrase can be found in Shakespeare's plays hundreds of times and any other books before 17th century .