It’s finally happening, everyone. It was only a matter of time, but I’m finally writing about Hamilton.
(Side note: This post was inspired by the Charlie Rose interviews with the cast, so check those out!)
I was struggling to decide whether or not I could actually write this because I still haven’t seen the show. But I have listened to the soundtrack approximately two hundred times, followed all of the actors on Twitter and Instagram, and watched every #Ham4Ham performance and all the other YouTube videos of the cast that exist (minus bootlegs, of course). Plus, this is my blog and I make the rules. So here ya go.
I’m sure you’ve all heard more than you’ve asked for about the musical Hamilton. And let’s be real, it was probably from me. So you must be wondering what else I could possibly say about the hip-hop musical about the founding father Alexander Hamilton. And here’s the plot twist for you: I don’t want to talk about Alexander Hamilton. I want to talk about Eliza.
Earlier this year, my roommate had the opportunity to see Hamilton and I couldn’t wait to hear all of her thoughts. This had been a show I had been dying to see since last summer when it was Off-Broadway at The Public, and I didn’t know many people who had actually gotten the chance to see it, so I was eager to hear first-hand opinions from someone I knew was also a big fan of musical theater. When she came home the night of the show and I asked her if it lived up to the hype, her answer was a fierce yes. But what surprised me most was that she continued by saying, “It had one of the most feminist endings I’ve ever seen.”
This obviously caught me off guard; how could that be true about a musical centered around the life of some old dude in the 1800s? I wasn’t denying that there were possible feminist elements in the show, but the most feminist ending ever? It didn’t add up. But then came my time to be fully immersed in everything Hamilton. I familiarized myself with the soundtrack, the history, the inspirations, and all of the work that was and is put into the show. And after a few (hundred) days spent obsessing over this work, I was finally able to understand her comment. Let me tell you- Hamilton is a goddamn feminist masterpiece.
Of course the show is mostly about the life of Alexander Hamilton- how he came to America as an orphan and established the first national bank and wrote a crazy amount of essays that would be responsible for most of his legacy as a founding father. But the show also gives insight to Hamilton’s personal life- his admiration for Washington, the death of his son Phillip, and the relationship with his wife, Eliza.
Hamilton was not the best husband, and that is putting it nicely. Often times he was more concerned with leaving his legacy as an American and willing to die for his new country than he was with his family. He spent more time and energy on his plans for Congress than quality time with his wife and kids. At first Eliza puts up with this; “I know who I married” she says. Not to mention the not so secret feelings he had for Eliza’s sister Angelica and the affair with Maria Reynolds, just to name a few of his disloyal tendencies. Eliza is lied to and betrayed, angry and confused, and she refuses to be controlled by her husband’s unfaithful behaviors. And yet, despite all of this, Eliza decides that his memory must be honored after he dies. Eliza is the one responsible for Hamilton’s legacy.
Eliza is the only character in the show who doesn’t rap and this isn’t coincidence. Unlike Hamilton, who needs to “write like he’s running out time” and say as much as he can in the least amount of time possible, Eliza has time. Songs such as “That Would Be Enough” and “Burn” show her intense passion and her ability to portray that in a caring and thoughtful way. But the song that truly encompasses Eliza’s influence is the final number of the show, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”, the love letter to this brilliant feminist.
At the end of the show, Washington sings “You have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” And even though Hamilton works endlessly and tirelessly everyday of his life through his writings and his actions to be remembered as something more than just a poor orphan from St. Croix, it is Eliza who keeps his memory alive. She lives for fifty years after Hamilton’s death and decides to put aside her sadness and anger toward her late husband in order to put herself “back in the narrative.” She takes the initiative to deconstruct all of his writing, to make sure Washington is properly memorialized, speaks out against slavery, and opens an orphanage, which she believed to be her greatest accomplishment. The orphanage she founded still exists today – Graham Windham – and was inspired to raise kids like Hamilton who want leave their mark on the world.
Because of Hamilton’s fatal duel with Aaron Burr, he did not have the time needed to carry out all of the expansive dreams he compiled over the years. But because of Eliza, who has the time, and her compassion dedication to do good, Hamilton is remembered through her. And while we all can’t have an Eliza, it is definitely inspiring to see someone with that much passion having their dreams come true even when they are no longer around to see it.