“Talk less, smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.”
This is the advice that Aaron Burr gives to Alexander Hamilton, to which Hamilton often counters, “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?” This quote exemplifies Burr’s entire political career, as his government campaigns were based on his personal merit and strategic abilities more than his political views. In comparison, Hamilton is outspoken and opinionated, which causes a subtle rift at first. When Hamilton tries to pass his financial plan through Congress, he admits that there are some circumstances in which he should listen to Burr’s advice and “talk less, smile more.”
“I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy, and hungry, and I’m not throwing away my shot.”
Though Hamilton was born on an island in the Caribbean, he identifies America as "my country," and a place whose spirit he greatly identifies with. In America, he has a chance to do something great with his life, and he isn’t going to waste that chance. Just as the country is young and relatively unformed, Hamilton feels that he is on the brink of greatness, and compares himself favorably to the potential that America has to become a great nation.
“Raise a glass to freedom, something they can never take away.”
Here, Laurens, Lafayette, Mulligan, and Hamilton salute the imminent revolution. Though there is a lot at stake, Lauren’s claim that nobody can ever take away one’s freedom emphasizes the theme of hope in the musical, and makes reference to the American ideal of liberty and personal freedom.
“Look around, look around, the revolution is happening in New York.”
This quote sums up Angelica’s character. She has a hunger for excitement and freedom, similar to Hamilton, and wants desperately to be a part of the revolution. In our introduction to the Schuyler sisters, we see that Angelica is intellectually daring and identifies with the tide of revolution that is taking over. In this way, we see her as a suitable match for Hamilton.
“Dying is easy, young man, living is harder.”
Hamilton is eager to lay down his life for America, and even dreams of dying a martyr, but Washington tells him that dying is too easy. The real heroes are the ones that survive and make the best out of what life hands them. In this case, those who survive the war must build America into a successful country with a whole new type of government, and with this quote, Washington encourages Hamilton to stick it out and help in the process, claiming that life is harder than death.
“I’m willing to wait for it.”
Burr builds his entire life and career around waiting for the right moment strike. He waits for opportunities to present themselves, rather than going after the things he wants, the way Hamilton does. This line, in a song that is all about this precise tendency, shows the ways that Burr is different from Hamilton in that he is "willing to wait" for the things that Hamilton is impatient to achieve. While this quality of Burr's is wise in many ways, Hamilton perceives it to be a less than honorable approach.
“I go to France for more funds, I come back with more guns and ships, and so the balance shifts.”
This line shows Lafayette’s importance in the Revolutionary War. He secures aid from France, which gives America an advantage over Great Britain, allowing them to win the war.
“Why do you write like you’re running out of time?”
Here, Burr is frustrated that Hamilton is advancing through law school faster than he is. He wonders why Hamilton is always writing, why he can never take a break. Simultaneously, Burr is amazed that Hamilton has so much endurance and hasn’t burnt out yet. This question about Hamilton’s time running out repeats throughout the musical, until his time finally does run out, and it's Burr's doing.
“I want to be in the room where it happens.”
Burr is frustrated that Hamilton, Washington, and Jefferson settled a large conflict during a closed-door dinner. He recognizes that many people will be left out of decision-making in government, and expresses his desire to be on the inside next time. This line (and this song more generally) is a clue to Burr's inner life, to his sense of vulnerability, and his desires. He wants, more than anything, to be a part of things, but he often feels left out.
“You’ve married an Icarus. He’s flown too close to the sun.”
After Hamilton admits to having had an affair with Maria Reynolds, Angelica tells Eliza in a letter that Hamilton was so worried about advancing his political career that he ended up ruining both his career and his home life. In her dramatic ballad, "Burn," Eliza looks over the words in her sister's letter, mourning the embarrassment and betrayal she has suffered as a result of her husband's indiscretion.
Hamilton Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Hamilton is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.