Hamilton Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Hamilton Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Motif: Repeating Songs

As in most musicals, there are several melodies or lines that recur throughout. Some of these are:

- The main theme (“Alexander Hamilton”) – “How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore…”

- The line, “Aaron Burr, Sir” from “Aaron Burr, Sir.”

- The line, “I am not throwing away my shot” from “My Shot.”

- The melody in “You’ll Be Back” during each of King George III’s songs.

- The word “helpless” whenever Eliza is in distress (from “Helpless”) and the line “you can never be satisfied” whenever Angelica is upset (from “Satisfied).

- The line, “I’m willing to wait for it” or just “Wait for it,” from “Wait For It.

- The count up from one to ten in “The Ten Duel Commandments” each time there is a duel.

- The line, “That would be enough” from “That Would Be Enough.”

Motif: Death

Alexander Hamilton was born in a country where many people die young. Hamilton himself didn’t believe he would live past twenty. Because of this, throughout the musical, Hamilton tries to do the most he can in the time he has, because he knows life is short and precious. Hamilton has thought about death so much “it feels more like a memory” (“My Shot”) to him, yet he did not fear death. Rather, Hamilton was willing, even eager, to lay down his life for his country. He risked (and gave) his life during a duel with Burr.

Motif: Time

Throughout the musical, Hamilton tries to make the most out of every minute of his life. Burr asks Hamilton why he writes like he is running out of time. Since Hamilton dies at the end of the musical, he literally is running out of time. At the end of the musical, we learn that Eliza lives another fifty years after Hamilton’s death. She uses that time the best she can, trying to accomplish as much as Hamilton would have, but she admits that he would have been able to do much more.

Motif: Story

Several of the characters, especially George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Eliza Schuyler realize that they will be written down in history for their roles in the American Revolution. Eliza says in “Burn” that Hamilton obsesses over what people will think of him in the future, so he writes everything with caution. Though Eliza initially asks Alexander to be part of his story (“That Would Be Enough”), when she learns of Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds, she takes herself out of the story by burning all of the letters she wrote to her husband (“Burn”). In the end, Eliza puts herself “back in the narrative” (“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”) by telling the stories of all the Founding Fathers, especially Alexander Hamilton.

Motif/Symbol: Hurricane

A literal hurricane destroyed Hamilton’s home island when he was young. He wrote about the devastation, which so moved his community that people raised money to send him to America. After Jefferson, Madison, and Burr learn of Hamilton’s affair, Hamilton feels like he is in the eye of a hurricane. The hurricane represents destruction; in this case it represents the damage this secret in his enemies’ hands could do to his career. In the same way that Hamilton wrote his way off the island, he decided to write his way out of this political disaster, and writes “The Reynolds Pamphlet.”

Symbol: The Only White Cast Member

When casting for Hamilton, Miranda specifically asked for minorities to audition for the musical. The only white cast member he was cast was Jonathon Groff as King George III. In a time when civil rights movements are as potent as ever, the casting of a white male as the repressive king represents the oppression minorities feel from white men in the modern day.

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