Entertainment January 20, 2017
Smash hit musical “Hamilton” is two hours and 23 minutes of pure delight. It’s an effortless blend of pop, hip-hop and rap, a medley of diverse stories, an American experience.
Since the play debuted on Broadway in 2015, it has captured the hearts of audiences worldwide, all of whom are desperate for tickets to see the show in New York or on tour.
But it’s not just the story of men like Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr (Sir!) but also the tale of some remarkable women who fought for their nation and their families too while America was just beginning to form.
These are the women of “Hamilton.”
Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, originally played by Phillipa Soo, is the wife of Alexander Hamilton in the show. We first meet Eliza when she and her sisters Angelica and Peggy take to the streets of New York City in “The Schuyler Sisters,” a song which immediately makes evident her contagious enthusiasm and zest for life.
When we meet her she is vivacious and full of life. As the play progresses, she suffers enormous losses, but never lets her spirit die. While her husband is fighting with every other founding father, she is raising their eight children and holding the family together. As Alexander sings to her the night before he dies, she “best of wives and best of women.”
Out of all the characters in the show, she is both the most resilient and the most compassionate. She witnesses a revolution and survives the violent deaths of both her son Phillip and her husband Alexander. After her husband’s death she goes on to live 50 more years, establishing the first private orphanage in New York City and continuing the legacy of her husband’s work.
Angelica, originally played by Renée Elise Goldsberry, is passionate, intelligent and selfless. When we meet her in Act One, she is joyfully exploring the streets of her city, anticipating the arrival of the Revolution and fighting for women’s rights. She is an educated woman who reads the works of Thomas Paine and has political correspondence with both her brother-in-law and Thomas Jefferson.
When she meets Alexander Hamilton at a ball in 1780, she falls in love with his intelligence but doesn’t pursue him after realizing Eliza’s feelings for him. Throughout the rest of the play, we hear and see Angelica’s deep regret in letting him get away that night. Despite the fact that Angelica is clearly in love with Alexander, the two maintain a close friendship even after Angelica marries and moves to London.
Angelica’s loyalty is her defining characteristic in the play. After singing, “I know my sister like I know my own mind,” she doesn’t act on her love for Alexander, knowing how Eliza feels. In addition, she remains a supportive force to Angelica after Alexander’s affair is revealed and after his death.
Peggy is the most cautious of the three Schuyler sisters. While Angelica and Eliza are singing of building tensions in the country, Peggy reminds her sisters that revolution can only mean violence and death. The youngest Schuyler sister, Peggy is not one to break the rules, though she quickly gets caught up in the growing excitement of the Revolution.
Along with Angelica and Eliza, Peggy is there to “work” for women’s rights. She joins her sisters to sing the line “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” from the Declaration of Independence, while suggesting that women deserve the same equality as men.
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Maria Reynolds, played by the same actress as Peggy, appears in Act two as the sultry seductress who has an affair with Alexander Hamilton. Though she only appears in the play for one song, her character is clearly multi-layered. While we want to blame Maria for causing a rift in the marriage between Alexander and Eliza, we are forced to realize that she is only a helpless victim of her husband’s blackmail.
She greets Alexander in the song “Say No to This” with a plea for assistance. “My husband’s doing me wrong, beating me, cheating me, mistreating me. Suddenly he’s up and gone. I don’t have the means to go on,” she tells him. When Alexander receives a letter from her husband James Reynolds extorting him for money, Maria pleads her ignorance and begs him to not leave her helpless.
Even though Maria is presented as a seductress, her character allows us to witness the power men had over women, both sexually and financially. Thus, her character is a comment on the rigid gender roles that existed at the time.
Each woman of “Hamilton” shapes the direction of the play, whether she sings one song or ten. Whether a faithful wife, fiercely loyal sister or sultry siren, these women changed Alexander Hamilton’s life, and ultimately, changed our history in the process.
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