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Three Thoughts on Alexander Hamilton

Hamilton the Musical is about a book. Who relentlessly reads a thick biography on his honeymoon, dog-earing pages for a potential musical? Lin-Manuel Miranda. He read a book about restoring someone's legacy through a story, and Miranda saw that that story could be a hip-hop Broadway musical and so he wrote it. The result was an oddity, a musical that is historically accurate but stylistically and performatively wrong (the usual method is to change the history while making it look accurate). He hired the book's author, Ron Chernow, to check his musical for its historical accuracy so that the story could be true. At Miranda's last performance he read from Chernow's book, because the musical is, in many ways, a love story for a great book.

Hamilton the Musical is about counting. People often count things: Angelica counts 3 things she has learned, Phillip counts in his French lessons, the ten rules of dueling are counted twice, the duel is counted off. Hamilton died too young, and there is a sense of urgency in his life's work and the musical. Time is ticking, and Hamilton is running out of time. The musical is ticking towards that final duel. It creates an impressive narrative tension, as well as communicating this essential sadness to Hamilton's short life.

Hamilton the Musical is about a legacy. Hamilton's legacy in American history has been, until Chernow's book, an oddity: he was the man who was shot in a duel. The stunning achievements of Hamilton have been ignored for centuries, as the astute, modern, and urban Revolutionary War hero was eclipsed by the legacies of Jefferson and Adams. His wife Eliza fought for his legacy (and her own), but she lost, until Chernow told the story as it deserved to be told and then Miranda did the same in music and theater. Even Burr gets a nod, that his legacy of being the shooter is a heavy burden, that his story has not been told as perhaps it should.

Life is fragile. Let us tell our stories well.

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