This is an old topic for regulars, but sometimes it’s nice to dust out the FAQs and revisit.
Today on Twitter I saw one person correct a friend that “wherefore art thou” does not mean “where are you”, but that it means “why are you here, Romeo.”
No it doesn’t, it means “why are you Romeo”, as in, “Why of all the eligible young guys in Verona did the love of my life have to be a member of the family my enemy is in a blood feud with?”
In sending these folks the correct answer I consulted Clusty for some more examples, which I think explain it a bit better :
Wherefore speaks he this to her he hates?
Wherefore doth Lysander deny your love?
But wherefore didst thou kill my cousin?
All this is comfort, wherefore weep I then?
Wherefore hast thou accused him all this while?
And so on. I don’t know about anybody else, but after seeing it regularly in its proper context I just see it as “why” and never think twice about it.
The original Twitterer did seem to know that it means “why”, but was perhaps still thinking that there was some sort of location connection with the where/here stuff. Nope. “wherefore art thou” is straight 1:1 translation, wherefore=why, art=are, thou=you. Why are you Romeo.
Had she said “Wherefore art thou here, Romeo” then you’d be on to something, but it would fundamentally change the meaning of the speech.