In the final act of Twelfth Night, Shakespeare leaves the audience hanging in a strange yet purposeful way. Orsino and Cesario realize their love for one another, yet cannot be wed until Cesario get’s back “Viola’s” real clothes.
Viola specifically tells Orsino to wait to show their love:
“If nothing lets to make us happy both
But this my masculine usurp’d attire,
Do not embrace me till each circumstance
Of place, time, fortune, do cohere and jump
That I am Viola: which to confirm”
Surely Cesario would be able to put on any dress to “become” a woman again, yet Shakespeare had led us to believe that this is impossible.
This can be interpreted in that Orsino and Viola both do not want to give Cesario up, because once placing female clothing back on, it will change their relationship, or how society perceives their relationship to be, forever. Cesario, in men’s clothing, can act differently than any other woman could and this is the person that Orsino fell in love with.
Shakespeare purposefully made Cesario their own person. Instead of Viola simply taking over her (assumed dead) brother’s persona as another Sebastian, she is her own “man”. In the modern day movie adaptation, we see they took the easy way out and had the main character Viola decide to poorly pretend to be her own brother, instead of any other man. Sure, for the movie this made it much simpler for her to highjack an identity and go to college as someone else, but as an adaptation of Twelfth Night, it loses part of the real play’s true meaning. Also, it probably would have been weird for Viola to assume her (dead) brother’s identity; to be called his name and be constantly reminded of her loss.
Orsino also wants to have both Viola and Cesario. Cesario was Orsino’s best friend, and since, during the time of the play it would be inappropriate for a man to love another man, Orsino would want Cesario to be a mistress dressed as Viola, while truly loving her male counterpart. I think that Shakespeare was trying to say that no matter what you look like, love is blind and takes on different forms.