What is in Viola's mind when she says, "My father had a daughter who loved a man" in Twelfth Night?

When Viola says "My father had a daughter loved a man" in Twelfth Night, she's getting as close as she can to expressing her love for Duke Orsino without giving away her true identity. Although she's disguised as a man, her words are those of a woman—a woman in love.

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When Viola, who at this point in the play is still disguised as Cesario, says that her father had a daughter who loved a man, she is, of course, referring to herself and her love for Duke Orsino . However, as she doesn't yet want to reveal her true...

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When Viola, who at this point in the play is still disguised as Cesario, says that her father had a daughter who loved a man, she is, of course, referring to herself and her love for Duke Orsino. However, as she doesn't yet want to reveal her true self, she has to pretend that she's talking about someone else.

This is the nearest that Viola can get to expressing her love for Orsino without actually revealing her true identity. She can't come right out and tell him exactly how she feels about him, as that would put her entire plan in danger, but what she can do is to indicate that, at the very least, she, in the guise of a man, does at least know what love is, even the kind of love a woman feels for a man. She says that her "sister" once loved a man in the same way that "he"—Cesario—might love Duke Orsino were she a woman. Cesario really is a woman, of course, but Viola is not ready to reveal her true identity just yet. What she is ready to do, however, is to express her love for Orsino, albeit in a convoluted manner that won't give the game away.

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