One of the most famous places in New York is the Broadway theater. Most Americans have at least heard of Broadway before, and many are huge fans of the musicals performed there. A few of the biggest Broadway hits include Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton, and Beetlejuice. There are many, many more, but one in particular blew up after its first performance five years ago. Especially after its recent upload to Disney+, Hamilton remains one of the most popular musicals in Broadway history, with about 1,800 performances and counting, 23 million streams on Spotify alone, and while Disney hasn’t released an exact number, the musical has millions of views on Disney+. What is Hamilton really about, though? Why did Lin-Manuel Miranda decide on this specific person, and what are the main points he’s trying to get by? What can we learn from it?
The answer to each of these questions can be found in direct quotes from Lin-Manuel Miranda himself. He says that he’s “always said that slavery is the original sin of this country”. This is displayed throughout the musical in the form of John Laurens in the first act (“we’ll never be truly free until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me.”) and in the second, it is mentioned in Cabinet Battle Number One that Hamilton himself, who had been working with Laurens to free slaves, was against the Virginians’ use of slaves. (“A civics lesson from the slaver, hey neighbor. Your debts are paid ’cause you don’t pay for labor.”) Miranda’s beliefs are also shown in the casting. Historically, all of the characters are white. However, there is a lot of diversity in the casting on purpose, to promote equality between all races.
Another theme in Hamilton is the focus on immigrants. Hamilton was an immigrant, as was Marquis de Lafayette. One of the songs in the show is even titled Immigrants (We Get The Job Done). Miranda explained that his parents were immigrants, and that as an immigrant you “Work three times as hard and are promised maybe a fraction as much.” Knowing this is why Hamilton and Miranda both have the mindset of working constantly, another theme in the musical (“Man, the man is nonstop”). This allowed Miranda to put himself in Hamilton’s shoes, and made him fit the role even better.
One final theme that should be mentioned is pride and reputation. Throughout the musical, it becomes apparent that Hamilton himself is prideful. He brags about his good looks, smarts, and charm, and he dies to protect his honor. His son also dies for Hamilton’s honor, defending his own pride in his father and his father’s reputation. Eliza and Angelica constantly get on to Hamilton about his worry over his reputation, especially after his exposed affair with Mariah Reynalds. The whole point of his exposure of himself was so that his rivals couldn’t hold it over his head, because Hamilton couldn’t stand the thought of his enemies having dirt on him. Aaron Burr was prideful, too, and it led him to be a murderer. In The Ten Duel Commandments, both Hamilton and Burr “agree that duels are dumb and immature,” yet do exactly that when their pride gets in the way.
In conclusion, there is a lot to learn from this blockbuster Broadway musical on many different topics, including racial diversity, immigration, and pride. Hamilton is a beautifully well-written musical with wonderful lessons to be learned.
(Image credits: USA Today)