View Full Version : West Wing, season finale May 16, english-latin translation request

The Flying Dutchman
05-20-2001, 11:30 PM
I found the scene in the sealed cathedral emotionally overwhelming, and regard this scene as one of the highlights of television history. Can anyone provide a reasonable translation of what President Bartlet said in Latin?


05-20-2001, 11:53 PM
It's interesting that you thought Martin Sheen's performance was that effective...when you read what he said in English, there's a chance you might find it lacking. (I thought the episode was fantastic, and liked the scene, but I think it would have been more effective if he played it angrier.)

There seem to be debates as to the content of a perfect translation but the two I found were as follows:

Michael Myer (West Wing fan; Latin teacher) wrote with the Latin and the translation:
"The first is just a sarcastic, "Thanks a lot, buddy!"
gratias tibi ago, domine.
Thank you, Lord.

haec credam a deo pio, a deo justo, a deo scito?
Am I to believe these things from a righteous god, a just god, a wise god?
cruciatus in crucem
To hell with your punishments! (literally "(put/send) punishments onto a cross")
tuus in terra servus, nuntius fui; officium perfeci.
I was your servant, your messenger on the earth; I did my duty.
cruciatus in crucem -- (with a dismissive wave of the hand) eas in crucem
To hell with your punishments!
And to hell with you! (literally, "may you go to a cross")"

A few minutes before, we also heard from Jason Chappel, who gave another quick translation as:
"Am I to believe that these are the acts of a loving God? A just God? A wise God? To hell with your punishments. I was your servent here on Earth. And I spread your word and I did your work. To hell with your punishments. To hell with you!"

05-21-2001, 01:08 AM
The translation I heard had a slightly different meaning for cruciatus. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that cruciatus is also the Masculine Nominative Singular Perfect Passive Participle of crucio, cruciare. If that were the case, then it would translate as "having been punished" rather than "punishment". That makes it:

Having been punished on a cross, may you go on a cross.

Maybe a sort of "back to hell with you!" Is there some flaw with this translation?

05-21-2001, 01:38 AM
But did anyone else find it hard to believe that someone can rattle off a fairly lengthy rant in Latin? It's not like you get taught that in school.

05-21-2001, 02:42 AM
Originally posted by BobT
But did anyone else find it hard to believe that someone can rattle off a fairly lengthy rant in Latin? It's not like you get taught that in school.

Actually, no. I remember in the 60's, people who had done the full cours classique here in Quebec that included 5 years of Latin and Greek that could hold discussions in either of these languages. Since president Bartlett seems to have gone to high school in the 50's (not counting the fact that he is Catholic and before the Vatican II council [early 60's], all Catholic rituals were in Latin) at a somewhat exclusive private school, I can see that as being possible.

05-21-2001, 03:59 AM
Also, is it possible that he was qouting another source, one originally in Latin? Which would make him being able to recite this from the top of his head more believable. Although the Pres has certainly been portrayted as smart enough (and eccentric enough) to be able to speak conversational Latin.

Steve Wright
05-21-2001, 07:19 AM
Is it really that uncommon? I learned Latin at school in the late Seventies/early Eighties. It wasn't compulsory, but it was an available option, at a fairly ordinary state school. (In the UK, admittedly, but, even so...)

05-21-2001, 12:40 PM
Seeing as President Bartlett went to Notre Dame and has admitted that he considered joining the priesthood, not to mention required daily masses (in Latin) that were the norm at ND pre-Vatican II, I would consider it a good bet that he knows Latin quite extensively. And given his penchant for random knowledge, this doesn't surprise me. I'm still looking for info on ND's website for any indication of required Latin for graduation. I had to have 9 credits of a foreign language when I graduated there in '98, so I don't think that making Latin required would be too far off the mark.

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