Lin Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical Hamilton is based on the life of one of the founding fathers of the United States: Alexander Hamilton. Instead of being a traditional musical that could have been told by white men for “historical accuracy,” it uses rap, R&B, and spoken word to tell the story, along with casting the majority of the historical figures during the American Revolution as people of color. Basically the only white person other than a couple in the ensemble is Jonathan Groff playing King George…and because of the symbolism of oppression, you can’t disprove it. While the diversity among the cast breaks a number of white-washing tendencies, the amount of sexism during the late 1700s/early 1800s is still displayed in the lyrics and dialogue:
“It’s eighteen hundred, ladies, tell your husbands: vote for Burr.”
“We’re reliable with the ladies! There are so many to deflower!”
“I am not a maiden in need of defending, I am grown.”
However, there aren’t just males of color telling the story – there are also females of color telling the story! The idea that great women weren’t around during the Revolution is a bold-faced lie. These female characters are respected, and they contribute significantly to the plot by developing their characters just as much as their male counterparts. The use of prominent female characters and female chorus members helps promote the ideal of inclusivity that the show is trying to display.
The main female characters in Hamilton are the Schuyler sisters. Many tend to be a big fan of the oldest sister, Angelica Schuyler (played by Renée Elise Goldsberry) for how opinionated she is, how she wears her hair natural, and how headstrong she is as Alexander Hamilton’s best friend (although in the song “Satisfied,” Angelica publicly admits her love for him).
Not to mention these particular lyrics from “The Schuyler Sisters” that prove how awesome Angelica is:
“You want a revolution? I want a revelation, so listen to my declaration: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.’ And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!”
Another sister that stands out, especially for me, is Eliza Schulyer, played by Phillipa Soo, the wife of Alexander Hamilton. Throughout the musical, she has a say in whether or not she wants to be a part of the narrative her husband attempts to create, and that’s a powerful tool to have. In the song “Burn,” after she finds out about Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds, she decides to erase herself from the narrative by burning the letters he wrote her, even though they could have redeemed his character. She believes that historians have no right to her heart, and neither does Hamilton at this point.
Eliza doesn’t attack Maria, like how most affair stories go, where the wife attacks the mistress. She rightfully expresses her frustrations toward her husband. Later in the musical, she places herself back into the narrative by accomplishing the things her husband never could.
Besides the Schuyler sisters, there are a the variety of women in the ensemble who deserve rightful recognition. The women in the ensemble of black and mixed race backgrounds are all wearing their hair natural, regardless of the role they play. Moreover, when they take on a presumed “masculine” role, none of the women put their hair back to recreate masculine features. Their makeup is still on, and their hair is still down.
After seeing the cool ways men and women of color are represented in this musical, it would be great to see a gender-bender revue of this musical. Have a Puerto Rican woman portray an Alexandra Hamilton. Have her be the one being pregnant with a daughter named Phillipa Hamilton while in battle. Throw in a cabinet rap battle with a biracial woman to portray a Teresa Jefferson!
I can’t be the only one who thought of that, right? Let’s make it a thing!