For those of you who don’t know, the musical genius Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and then starred in a musical about the founding father Alexander Hamilton. Not surprisingly, it was titled Hamilton.
Your mind is blown, I know.
This musical has become important to me for a number of reasons and I’ve wanted to write a post about it for a while, so when my good friend Grace tagged me for the Hamilton-themed tag she created, I saw my opportunity to ramble about my true love.
Aside from the obvious fact that the songs are catchy and lyrically brilliant, Hamilton brings people long dead back to life again. This isn’t easy, but they did it.
And the story… where do I start? Hamilton’s story is one of ambition and friendship and hope, jealousy and rivalry and terrible mistakes. Perhaps more than anything, though, Hamilton is a story of forgiveness and redemption.
I don’t know about you, but history isn’t my strong point. It was never my favorite subject in school and even though I took American History, I clearly didn’t retain much as the name “Alexander Hamilton” meant nothing to me when I first heard it.
I am proud to say that I could now easily reel off his story to you from start to finish, but that isn’t my point. My point is that even a non-history buff like myself can fall in love with Hamilton, and, to some degree, fall in love with history.
I mean, if Hamilton’s is such a powerful, moving story… what other stories in history did I overlook? It makes me want to start voraciously devouring history books, to be honest.
But before I am, ahem, run away with my emotions, perhaps I should answer some of Grace’s lovely questions, yes?
How did you discover Hamilton?
Through Sarah and Grace, actually! Sarah wrote a post on her old blog listing some of the writerly references that pepper this musical. I had never heard of this “Hamilton” thing before, so I was curious. Shortly thereafter, I watched this video of Stacey and Natalie from Studio C lip-syncing the song Nonstop. I fell in love. I wanted to be able to do that – to lip-sync that song as flawlessly as they did. So I proceeded to interrogate Grace about the details – a process she tolerated with admirable patience, I must say.
Who is your favorite character?
Alexander? Burr? Eliza?
I relate to all of them, for drastically different reasons.
Like Alexander, I am ambitious in a way that most people aren’t. Perhaps ambition isn’t even the right word. More like… restlessness, dissatisfaction, hunger. Like Alexander, I find myself consumed with longing for something more, something better. This can be a good thing. As Eliza so often points out, Alexander made it incredibly far when you look at where he came from. Similarly, this restlessness makes me hardworking and determined to accomplish my dreams.
But as Hamilton so poignantly illustrates, ambition can also destroy relationships and people.
Burr, on the other hand, is an enigma to me. He is the opposite of Hamilton.
Hamilton is your stereotypical protagonist. The orphan who is alone in the world but knows what they want and are determined to do whatever it takes to get it.
I can relate to this.
Burr is… anything but stereotypical. He is also a highly motivated man, but in a different way than Hamilton – and this fascinates me. Burr coolly waits for the right moment… and then steps in and takes what he wants. And if Burr’s character was handled with anything less than superb skill, I wouldn’t have been able to relate to him at all. He’s nothing like me, after all. Fortunately, his character was handled with amazing skill.
Burr isn’t timid, he isn’t afraid – he simply realizes how much he stands to lose. So Burr made me realize something about the “hero.” Alexander has nothing to lose. So he can take risks that Burr can’t take. Burr wants to be Hamilton. He wants to be that reckless kid with nothing. But he isn’t. He was born into a prestigious family, and when his parents died “they left no instructions, just a legacy to protect.”
This made me realize something important: some of us are born into circumstances that allow for Alexander’s recklessness… and some of us aren’t. And that isn’t your fault. You have no control over the family that you are born into.
You gotta work with what you got.
Perhaps Burr’s best quality is his patience. A lesson that hits home for me especially, as I am not patient. At all. I don’t sit around waiting for things to happen. To me. I get out there and chase them. There’s something so passive, so lazy about waiting that drives me crazy.
But Burr’s waiting isn’t passive. It’s active. He is lying in wait.
I can’t help but admire this.
And you know what blows my mind? This story is not the work of a talented author who thought, “Burr will balance Hamilton, Hamilton will balance Burr…” This actually happened. These people were real.
Eliza is a beautiful character. She is gentle and trusting. She is good.
She loves Alexander wholeheartedly. And she possesses a certain innocence and sweetness that makes you want to protect her. Unfortunately, one cannot protect characters in musicals…
She is one of the first ones to recognize Alexander’s genius and she always tries to point him to the truth, she always pushes him to see the good – all that he does have instead of all that he wants.
Her ache to “be apart of the narrative, the story they will write one day” resonates so deeply with me. How many “side characters” are left out of the story? How many wives and mothers are standing just outside the spotlight, the silent, but true, heroes of these stories?
Of all the characters in this story, Eliza may be the one to suffer the most. Her husband seems almost incapable of loving her as completely as she loves him. He leaves her behind. And then he breaks her heart.
But Eliza… she forgives him.
The song It’s Quiet Uptown is all about forgiveness. And it breaks my heart into about a million pieces.
It is important to me on so many levels. This song is incredibly sad but if this song was not in the play, Hamilton would be so dark and depressing that I wouldn’t be able to stand it.
Alexander admits that he what he did was wrong. He acknowledges that Eliza is the better person. He finally sees the strength and beauty that was in his wife all along.
This is important. It sends the message that Alexander’s behavior was not… acceptable. There are no excuses for what he did.
And Miranda doesn’t try to excuse him, or brush it off by saying, “Ah, what can you expect from a man like that?” as if great men cannot be expected to be held to the same standards of morality as “normal” people.
And it’s sad… because Alexander is so broken – “I spend hours in the garden… I walk alone to the store… I never liked the quiet before… the sign of the cross at the door… and I pray… that never used to happen before.” I am devastated for Alexander.
Eliza’s part of the song is equally sad. And I love that there is this closure, that Eliza does choose forgiveness. “Walking by her side, talking by her side… they’re standing in the garden, standing there side by side… he takes her hand… it’s quiet uptown… forgiveness… can you imagine? Forgiveness… can you imagine?”
Eliza is the most powerful character in this story and the reason it has the potential to be life-changing.
What’s your absolute favorite song?
If you think there is any way I’m going to answer this question with only one song, you are sadly mistaken, my friend.
Dear Theodosia, That Would Be Enough, Wait For It, and It’s Quiet Uptown are the most emotional songs, for me.
But Nonstop, Room Where It Happens, and Guns And Ships are the most fun to sing.
What’s your dream role?
I’ve given this a lot of thought. When I watch a movie – or, in this case, listen to a musical – I immediately pick out which character I would most like to play.
Lafayette would be enormously fun and I have the hair for it. And it means being Jefferson as well who is incredibly witty.
Alexander, obviously, has the largest role.
I love Eliza’s role and the broad emotional emotional range.
And Angelica, while I do not admire her character, has some fast rap sequences that would be fun to do.
But, like Grace said, the ensemble gets to sing and dance in every song, not to mention cool costumes and incredibly difficult dance sequences.
What’s your favorite quote?
“I am the one thing in life I can control,” said by Aaron Burr.
So often I am tempted to justify my own laziness or bad attitude on my circumstances, but Burr is willing to accept responsibility for his own actions. Because even if we can control nothing else, we can control our own actions.
Who do you consider your “Hamilton Buddy” (someone who you can ramble, fangirl, or sing Hamilton with)?
Alas, no one appreciates Hamilton as I do. I am utterly alone in the world.
Weep with me.
Actually, I do wish I knew someone in person who would sing Hamilton with me. My little brother only barely tolerates my random explosions into song and has long since stopped encouraging them by participating.
Sarah and Grace do indulge me by flailing in comments, though. Thank you, ladies!
In the end, Hamilton is the story of a “great man.”
And while no one can deny that such great man are the ones who change the world, Hamilton shows that this “greatness” comes at a terrible price.
It is often those who are closest – spouse, children, and friends – to such revolutionaries who suffer the most.
Personally, it has always been my belief that you should… “start at home.” After all, what good is it to change the world – only to lose your own kids and destroy your own family or push away your closest friends?
So. Maybe we should rethink our dreams of greatness. Maybe the “greatest” men are the ones who are there for their children, who work hard, who love their wives, who never achieve status, who never get rich, who let go of their ambitions and dreams for those they care about, who we will never read about in history books.
1. How did you discover Hamilton?
2. Who is your favorite character?
3. What’s your absolute favorite song?
4. Music wise, which is better, Act I or Act II?
5. What’s your dream role?
6. What’s your favorite quote?
7. Describe what Hamilton means to you using only 3 words.
8. Who do you consider your “Hamilton Buddy” (someone who you can ramble, fangirl, or sing Hamilton with)?
9. How has Hamilton impacted your life?
10. What is the best thing about Hamilton?