Page 41

en could not hold property in their own names.³ Hamilton alluded to this practice in a letter to John Laurens in which he described his ideal wife, saying, “but as to fortune, the larger the better.”⁴ Hamilton was poor, and he understood that he would be the recipient of his wife’s fortune. The musical illustrates Eliza and Hamilton’s courtship as one founded on love and equality, and while this may be partly accurate through Hamilton’s reference to Eliza as the “best of wives, best of women,” it also glosses over the gender constraints and rules that motivated their marriage, thus impacting its accuracy.⁵ The interpretation of Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds in Hamilton is also modified to appeal to current audiences. While the musical does highlight the agony of the affair on Eliza, it neglects to address the social and economic reasons for her decision to stay with Hamilton. The song “Burn” performed by Eliza, includes lyrics such as “you have ruined our lives” and “you forfeit all rights to my heart.”⁶ These lyrics and others contribute to a song that presents a powerful feminist message and implies that Eliza was torn apart by Hamilton’s actions, but she ultimately chose to stay with him out of love and loyalty. This decision to stay with Hamilton is seemingly addressed within the verse, “I’m erasing myself from the narrative,” however, Eliza could never actually erase herself. The powerful assertions in this song fail to illustrate the true historical implications of Hamilton’s affair. Although Eliza was hurt by this event, socially it would have been nearly impossible for her to leave Hamilton. Divorce was very uncommon in colonial America, as it “was generally unobtainable, and desertion was a dangerous gamble only the most desperate undertook.”⁷ Despite Hamilton’s actions and the damage they caused to Eliza and her reputation, divorce was not an option, and she needed the financial support he provided. The musical ignores this concept and instead provides, in a feminist manner, that Eliza decided to stay by Hamilton’s side. In doing this, Hamilton is not historically accurate because it fails to include the social constructs of colonial America which significantly influenced the life of Eliza Hamilton. The modernization of feminism in Hamilton

is also demonstrated through the characterization of Angelica Schuyler. She is portrayed as an intelligent and headstrong woman who leads her sisters in defiance of their father’s orders. Angelica tells of a revolution in which women are included when she sings, “And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel.”⁸ This verse, although feminist in message, does not accurately reflect the lack of feminist movements and women’s rights

The modernization of feminism in Hamilton is also demonstrated through the characterization of Angelica Schuyler. She is portrayed as an intelligent and headstrong woman who leads her sisters in defiance of their father’s orders. in the 18th century. Rather, this verse is meant to appeal to present-day audiences in that it tells of women gaining a political voice and power in society. The problem with the inclusion of this verse is that the “sequel” will not be considered until the feminist movement of the late 19th century and the passage of the 19th Amendment. Nancy Isenberg discusses the complexity of Angelica Schuyler’s characterization in saying, “Instead of talking about real feminism, or describing women as they really were, popular writers invent a fake heroic female character.”⁹ This concept is glaringly evident in the musical, as Angelica is characterized as a contemporary of Thomas Jefferson and a leading voice in the Revolution and women’s rights. While Angelica may have harbored feminist thoughts, historically she would have never been given the platform to spread or act on these thoughts as women were excluded from politics and leadership.¹⁰ Overall, Angelica Schuyler is representative of the modernization of feminism in Hamilton because she is given political and social authority, but historically she did not have these traits. Hamilton’s presentation of historical events and people through the lens of modern feminist themes cannot be deemed historically correct. The musical, in its retelling of the Schuyler sisters’ 39

Profile for Rebuttal

Spring 2019  

We proudly present our first issue! The topics include abortion, the Iran deal, voter ID laws, targeted killings by governments, Hamilton: A...

Spring 2019  

We proudly present our first issue! The topics include abortion, the Iran deal, voter ID laws, targeted killings by governments, Hamilton: A...

Profile for rebuttal
Advertisement