Why must Viola disguise herself as a young man in order to work in Orsino’s household?    Why must Viola disguise herself as a Eunuch (Cross-dress) in order to work in Orsino’s household?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Viola doesn’t actually disguise herself as a eunuch – a man who had been castrated before puberty and thus never developed the secondary sexual characteristics of a normal adult male. There were famous eunuchs or castrati who were prized as singers in church choirs and operas (close to a modern counter-tenor voice), but Viola, as most of the comments about her age suggests, was disguised as a normal teenage male with a yet unbroken voice.

She disguises herself because it would have been impossible to join the court at that time as an unattached women, or to earn her living and have the freedom to search for her brother. Had she done so, her reputation would have been ruined and she could not have made a decent marriage.

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