In his conversation with Bonasera, The Godfather tells the undertaker: "then your enemies would become my enemies and then they would fear you..."

Is this really something Vito would have found necessary to explain? Would not a subtle man like the Don have left it at "then your enemies would become my enemies"?

  • 2
    Sometimes a speech is so one character can inform another & sometimes it's really exposition for the audience. This may be the latter, but idk for sure, so can't post as an answer.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 12:49
  • yes, and i think the godfather has a lot of explanation for the audience done this way. but few people watching would have not understood the implications of someone's enemy automatically becoming the enemy of don corleone.
    – releseabe
    Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 12:51

3 Answers 3


It's not necessarily a subtlety to include that. You can say, "Your enemies become my enemies", and it would mean that I would protect you. To add the "And they would fear you", gives Bonasera a glimpse at the power that alliance would yield to himself. The weight he could carry in negotiations. The respect he could have, similar to that of The Godfather.

  • and he would not have understood that anyway? that is the essence of my question. no one who was not a complete idiot would say, okay, don corleone, so my enemies would become your enemies -- what does that get me? could you please expand upon this, Godfather? I'm feeling a little out of it today...
    – releseabe
    Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 12:53
  • @releseabe - I explained that. It could easily mean, "I will protect you". In other words, "If you get into trouble, I'll help you out of it". Which, in essence, is like a parent/child relationship. By adding, "And they will fear you", it puts him more into a position of power. People will fear him. He has more control. He is now on a peer level with The Don, rather than being his child. Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 13:29
  • well, i think it is not something he would say. he would not need to say, i will protect you, either. in the Godfather Saga, we hear a lot of dialog that is better omitted -- I see the Don as a man of few words and very careful about what he says.
    – releseabe
    Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 13:35
  • 1
    I still think it's exposition for the audience. You don't need the audience guessing at motives or explanations that are not actually there to make them think. Tell 'em straight & save the thinking for the tough bits they're supposed to work out for themselves. The Godfather is not exactly one of the worst scripts of all time ;) There's a good amount of thought went into what the audience need to know at any given time.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 13:40
  • 1
    Well, he's pretty explicit in a lot of his dialogue, especially when he tells Sonny off after their meeting with Sollozzo. I mean, shouldn't Sonny have known that, growing up in the guy's house? I'm not sure what relationship you have with Puzo and why you feel you know all of his motives and choices of dialogue so well, but the rest of us don't have that relationship and need a little explanation. Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 13:54

It's rhetoric.

Vito is literally giving a speech, to make a certain impression and to achieve certain ends. He does this at several points in the film. It's part of his mystique; it's part of what makes him a good Don.

You're probably correct that everybody already knows what is entailed in entering into a patron/client relationship with Vito. He still makes the speech, because it manipulates his potential new client emotionally, and because it invests their discussion with a ritualistic quality that makes it more than just a transaction.

Note that the soliloquy starts with the words:

What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?

Vito has the say the words aloud, rather than just be subtle, because the entire interaction is designed by Vito to use rhetoric to elevate the new relationship into something more than "Hey Mr. Gangster, I can pay you to hurt some guys for me!" The very attributes of Vito's persona that make him an interesting character to watch in a movie also make him someone who can command loyalty from his soldiers and clients - but maintaining that persona requires him to make certain speeches in certain ways.


When Don Vito said: "... and then they would fear you...", it was a way to say that the power and the fear that he imposes, it's not a good thing to had. So I think that Don Vito saw on Bonasera a weak man that is no capable to handle the same fear that he would impose.

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