Ok, so I’m late to the game in loving Hamilton, and it’s great. I’m not going to dissect it here or go on about the clever lyrics or how Thomas Jefferson was theater genius. I wanted to focus instead on the love story.
I was recently talking to a friend of mine about love and romance story arcs embedded in other works. While I don’t read (or write) romance books, the older I get the more I like the romantic arcs in my science-fiction and fantasy. And my books have one or more romance arcs happening alongside the larger plot. Also, I didn’t play Mass Effect for the story. (Ok, that’s a lie. The story was amazing, in all its space opera glory). But what hooked me in Mass Effect were the romance plots. Same with Dragon Age. Same with Witcher 3.
Ok, so Hamilton the Musical is not science fiction. However, it’s a case in point of this phenomenon that makes me absolutely love this music. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of it, but halfway through the first act there are two songs back to back that ignite the romantic sub-plot. It adds a layer beyond the already clever retelling of the American Revolution and the drama of figuring out our early government. If you’ve seen or listened to Hamilton, you’ll know which two songs I’m taking about. If you haven’t, I’d invite you to watch both videos below for a deep dive into the core of one of Hamilton’s brilliant facets. True, this is the beginning of this tale and it develops and resolves through Act 2, but it’s introduction is succinct and powerful.
In the first song, Helpless, we have the story from Eliza’s point of view, his courtship of her, and their subsequent engagement. There’s a point in the middle of the song, a spoken line by her sister Angelica that breaks the music for a moment: “I’m about to change your life.” In this line, Angelica introduces Hamilton to Eliza. Because of the way it breaks the music, it’s memorable in your ears even the first time your exposed to the musical.
The very next song starts at the wedding with Angelica giving the toast. Then she rewinds in her mind back to the night where she introduced Hamilton to Eliza, and you relive the scene from HER perspective… which is a very different experience. Linking the two is her encounter with Hamilton, her falling head over heals just as her sister did, her realizing she could have Hamilton if she wants, and then making a choice to sacrifice her own happiness for her sister’s happiness. The same break in song happens, and you get the spoken line: “I’m about to change your life…” and she lets go of her soul mate so her sister can be happy. The line “I know my own sister like I know my own mind” and “I will choose her every time” plays at a crucial moment in Act 2… but I’ll leave that part for your own exploration.
I’ve selected the animated versions of these songs, which really brought them to life for me even more. Someone made a fan rendition of the songs with rough anime-style sketches. Not only does it illustrate the scene, it illustrates (ha! see what I did there?) the expressive emotive style that Japanese animation is known for.