Kids have it nice here in the future. What with their hover boards, hover ponies and hover sexting. They get their whole lives handed to them on a silver platter (that hovers).
It wasn't always so easy. Back in the day, people had only one reason to produce offspring: To force them to do the abhorrently awful work no grown person would dare to. And if you think child labor didn't get any worse than dirty-faced children in Victorian shoe factories, well, you apparently haven't heard about...
Oh, man. You know by the name this isn't going to end well. Castrati.
The thing is, today the theater struggles to retain audiences. In fact, the only thing that draws folks back to the aging whore that is the stage is the chance to see live, 3D nudity. And even that's getting quickly replaced.
Your move, Shakespeare.
But the 1600s were a different time. A time when hookers were honest and the stages were free from all those icky, heathen women. In fact, no woman was allowed in the choir or stage production in the 17th century. Theater houses were like those ball pits at McDonald's... you know, if those little plastic balls were actual balls.
Nonetheless, playwrights and composers kept writing female parts. To keep the songs from sounding like a barbershop quartet comprised of bulky Hungarian dudes, the choir masters would give the womanly roles or alto parts to prepubescent boys. And, every so often, one talented scamp's melodious voice would catch the master's ear and become the prize pupil.
But of course, all good things come to an end. Flowers bloom, caterpillars turn into beautiful butterflies and boys go through the often traumatizing experience of puberty.
Just ask Macaulay Culkin.
But for those boys whose sopranos were sweet enough to make a mob boss weep, a minor surgery could preserve their voice, joining them to the ranks of the castrati. In fact, 70 percent of stage performers in the 17th century were castrati.
A fad that reappeared in the 1970s.
And how did one become an illustrious member of the castrati? You already guessed, you just won't admit it to yourself. It was via the process of cutting blood supply to the testicles, or more commonly amputating them altogether.
How did they perform such an invasive--and not to mention traumatizing--surgery on a six- to 12-year-old kid? By giving them a bath. They simply soaked them in a tub of water to soften them up, and then performed the surgery when they were rendered unconscious. We assume the unconscious part came from telling the seven-year-old that they were not, in fact, receiving candy for this public bathing but actually getting their balls chopped off.
Then castrati might hope for a good 10 year run as a performer, after which the boy would only be 17 and rethinking the long term strategy of a castration career. Of course, settling down and getting married wasn't an option, unless the boy could find that one in a million girl turned on by non-existent erections.
I think I just felt- no nevermind. Just a breeze.
Eventually, castratis fell out of fashion in the late 1700s, not because of the ridiculously brutal violence visited upon little boys, but because the Italian soap opera plots they performed in became too silly to watch. The audiences didn't mind the castrations; it was the authenticity of the scripts that turned them off. Hear that, M. Night Shyamalan? No amount of castrated boys could save your films from sucking.