Hamilton is a musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, with a book by Lin-Manuel Miranda and music by Miranda and his frequent collaborator, composer/lyricist/producer/musician Thomas Kail.
Hamilton is a musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda that explores the life of Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became one of America’s founding fathers. The show is set in New York City during the time period of 1777 to 1804.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Masterpiece Hamilton: A Thematic Exploration
Lin-Manuel Miranda came and established a reputation for himself with the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights in 2008, but he was just getting started. Miranda’s second Broadway hit has become associated with the artist himself, and it expands on some of the themes from In the Heights while also exploring new territory. Miranda’s previous works, Hamilton and In the Heights, are too musically similar to one other and are also based on his personal life, according to Lindsay Ellis and Princess Weekes in their Moana episode of her podcast Musicalsplaining. The first assertion is ridiculous in my opinion, but I do agree with the second to some degree. I can’t think of a reason why it would be a negative thing. The topics that a writer addresses in their writing may reveal a lot about who they are and what they value to their audience. This is especially apparent when they return to the same ideas in several works. Furthermore, I like it when someone’s work is inspired by their own experiences. Isn’t the purpose of art to get out of your mind and view the world through the eyes of someone else? I’ve previously discussed In the Heights and why I like Lin-Manuel Miranda in general, but now I’m looking at one of Miranda’s most enduring works, the one that is already defining his career less than a decade after its premiere.
The idea of a person’s origin and how it may shape or, in certain instances, resist them is a recurring theme throughout Hamilton. Except for the humorous mini-musical 21 Chump Street and perhaps Bring It On, which I haven’t heard or seen, Miranda’s musicals have a recurring theme. The protagonists of both In the Heights and Moana are products of the societies in which they grew up. Moana is overjoyed to learn that her ancestors were also explorers, while Usnavi is drawn to his birthplace rather than his home at first. Hamilton defies the norm and goes in the other way as a result of its original material. The show’s satire on Alexander Hamilton’s paternity is apparent from the start; the title song introduces us to “The ten-dollar Founding Father without a Father.” Fatherhood is a prominent theme in the show, whether it’s the Founding Dads – especially George Washington – serving as a father figure for Hamilton or Hamilton and Aaron Burr becoming fathers. Hamilton, like Usnavi, is molded by his orphanhood, but his reaction is very different. Hamilton is the story of a man who, through incredible skill and pure determination, rises above his modest beginnings to create his own legacy.
The underlying difference between Hamilton and Aaron Burr, which leads to their falling out and Hamilton’s death, is another important topic. The contrast between Hamilton’s loudmouth babbling and Burr’s contemplative, restrained character is established straight away in “Aaron Burr, Sir.” Hamilton’s persistence and fast, blunt wit gain him friends and put him and Burr on opposing courses in the next song, “My Shot.” As the outspoken Hamilton’s comments earn him friends, power, and influence, Burr’s admonition to “Talk less, smile more” passes in one ear and out the other. He even utilizes the written word to court Eliza Schuyler, his eventual wife. Hamilton’s achievements attracted the attention of George Washington and other generals, resulting in the promotion that Burr desired. Burr tells his buddy and competitor Hamilton Hamilton at the wedding of Alexander and Eliza that the lady he loves is married to a British officer. “If you love this lady, go grab her/What are you waiting for?” Hamilton responds. Hamilton demonstrates that he would not only aggressively and shamelessly seek anything he desires, but that he also cannot comprehend why anybody would not do so. We receive the culmination of all of Burr’s complaints, as well as the rationale for his reluctance, in “Wait For It.” Burr thinks that good things come to those who wait, and he is surprised by the success of someone who never waits. Burr, like Hamilton, is an orphan (“If there’s a reason I’m still living after everyone who loves me has died, I’m prepared to wait for it”), but he was raised differently and therefore has a distinct perspective on the subject. Despite the fact that he lost his parents when he was a child, Burr views himself as the keeper of their heritage. This makes sense, too: Burr is the scion of a great American family, while Hamilton is a scumbag orphan from a Caribbean backwater. Burr sees himself as the heir of a prestigious family, while Hamilton’s background only brings him humiliation and ridicule. Despite all they have in common, their differences influence their relationship and ultimately lead to tragedy.
One of the most striking parallels between the two men can be seen in the song “Dear Theodosia,” which is based on actual letters Burr sent to his only (legitimate) daughter. The Laurens Interlude, which is mainly spoken word and not featured on the soundtrack CD, is the penultimate song before the act break, and it offers Hamilton and Burr their most humanizing moments in the performance. Their feelings of pride and affection for their children are very identical. When Hamilton sings, “My father wasn’t around,” which Burr repeats, and they promise not to harm Philip and Theodosia, I feel goosebumps. Another one that always gets me is “I’ll do whatever it takes/I’ll make a million errors.” This song is a duet, but it’s also a speech from inside. What they shared was probably more significant than what divided them, which is one of the show’s and history’s biggest tragedies. What might have occurred if Hamilton had spent more time on these ideas rather than slamming political opponents?
It’s not enough for me to appreciate anything if I don’t understand why. Both Hamilton and Burr (at least as they are shown in the musical) have struck me as very relatable in ways that are, to put it bluntly, disturbing. I have Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning autism spectrum condition. As a result, I’ve been prone to outbursts similar to those shown by Hamilton. I’ve also spoken things that I subsequently realized were unneeded or even damaging, sometimes just after they were uttered. While I don’t feel the urge to fight with everyone (I have the opposite issue), I know a few individuals who do. Burr’s feeling of being left behind in comparison to his more successful peers is understandable. It’s extremely relevant, yet despite his achievements and contributions to the war effort and the ultimate American government, Burr isn’t even recognized a Founding Father in our day. Burr, on the other hand, often withholds crucial facts that might assist individuals or persuade them to alter their views. In the musical, Hamilton invites Burr to collaborate on the Federalist Papers, attempting to persuade him to take a position on anything. “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for?” is a taunt used at someone who “(waits to) see which way the wind would blow,” not simply a theatrical reference to a real statement by Alexander Hamilton. Burr “keeps (his) all (his) intentions close to (his) chest,” whether in personal affairs or in public, while Hamilton is ready to publish a paper exposing his adulterous romance, which is… definitely a choice. It’s also worth noting that Hamilton’s political career ultimately implodes because he attempted to “Write (his) way out,” which had previously worked well. It’s simple to conclude from this and the final battle that Hamilton was correct and Burr was incorrect, but others would argue the contrary. However, both mentalities are extreme, which is the issue. Things could have turned out differently if they had each taken a leaf from the other’s book. Miranda, on the other hand, seems to recognize Hamilton’s life as a Shakespearean tragedy, even comparing him to Macbeth. The clash of two powerful personalities resulted in an almost unavoidable conclusion.
The show’s greatest success and irony is that Hamilton’s words did not define his narrative; he was not allowed to write his own legacy. Eliza, the person who loved him the most and to whom he probably caused the greatest damage, became his most fervent posthumous defender and protector. Eliza spent the rest of her life, both in real life and in Hamilton, performing good acts and nurturing Alexander’s writings. She wanted to make up for the damage he had done to his reputation, which was done after his death by political foes. In the Heights, there are many parallels between Alexander and Usnavi, but the surprise is that Eliza is the one who recounts the tale. Although Alexander is the protagonist, the narrative is not conveyed through him. The program is narrated by Burr, and Eliza is credited for keeping the tale alive long enough for this to happen in the first place. This is, in my view, why Hamilton became such a hit, as much as I like In the Heights. Hamilton boasts incredible dance choreography and catchy songs, but it’s the constant surprises, careful characterisation, and deep, thematically rewarding narrative that make it a once-in-a-generation experience.
The using hamilton in the elementary classroom is a blog that discusses how to use Hamilton as a tool for teaching primary-aged students about themes of diversity, identity, and belonging.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the theme of Hamilton?
The theme of Hamilton is a mix of the American Revolution and the War of 1812.
What are the major themes of Hamilton?
The major themes of Hamilton are the American Revolution, slavery, and immigration.
What have Lin-Manuel Miranda The idea for Hamilton?
The idea for Hamilton came from a short story by Ron Chernow, who wrote Alexander Hamilton.
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