Hamilton Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What style is a majority of the music in Hamilton and what does it contribute to the play?

    What makes Hamilton so unique, and what many critics and audiences loved about it when it first came out, is the fact that it anachronistically blends early American history with contemporary American rap traditions. Early American history, which is notably white and from the 18th century, does not exactly beg the influence of hip-hop, a musical style adopted by musicians of color. Thus, the marriage of rap with history becomes an unlikely pairing, but one that pays off. The typically dry historical narrative is given a boost of vitality and relevance in its hip-hop treatment, as the stakes of a treaty or a compromise are made as high as that of a rap battle.

  2. 2

    Why are Burr and Hamilton such fierce rivals?

    When Hamilton first meets Burr, Burr advises him to "smile more, talk less." With this advice he is referring to Hamilton's tendency to be rather outspoken and longwinded. Hamilton is passionate and fights for what he believes in, while Burr is more tight-lipped and strategic, waiting for the right moment to act, rather than acting without inhibition. This difference is playful at first, but it eventually becomes more and more tense as the two men ascend in government. Hamilton's outspokenness and Burr's underhandedness keep raising tension until the two men duel.

  3. 3

    What is funny about King George's song?

    King George represents colonial authority, the evil force of the English government trying to maintain control of the American settlers. In this way, he is the ultimate villain. Yet, the way he is written in the musical transforms him into a more comic figure, and he sings an upbeat (but subtextually resentful) song about how Americans are nothing without him. The song is in the style of a breezy pop love song, so the contrast between the romantic tone and the controlling, imperial scenario strikes a comic chord.

  4. 4

    What is the song "Hurricane" about?

    In "Hurricane," Hamilton sings about the fact that when he was a boy and a hurricane devastated his home, he ended up writing about the devastation, and the strength of the writing led to him getting sent to America to start a new life. From a moment of hardship, he managed to find a positive outlet that brought him success and the ability to overcome difficult circumstances. Now, he has betrayed his wife, and he worries about the news getting out, a situation that he compares to standing in the eye of the hurricane. Like he did when he was young, he is going to write his way through the problem, penning the Reynolds Pamphlet to reveal the affair on his own terms. The song is about how writing has always helped Hamilton get through difficult situations.

  5. 5

    How does the show address the theme of legacy?

    Throughout, Hamilton is worried about his legacy, how he will be perceived in the broader scheme of history. While he wants to be free to determine his own destiny and is anxious not to throw away his "shot," he also learns, from his own experience and from mentors like George Washington, that men cannot explicitly control their legacies. By the end, when he has died, Eliza takes it upon herself to carry on her husband's legacy, picking up the pieces of his chaotic political career and singing the song, "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story." Legacy is important to the characters, and they want to have some influence over their own legacies, but they also must grapple with their limited control.