The biggest names seem to replicate the style of an existing famous rapper. With his incendiary, rapid-fire style, Hamilton resembles B. Real from Cypress Hill. With his blunt, hard-hitting style, Washington represents Chuck D from Public Enemy. And with his showy, flamboyant flow, Jefferson represents Andre 3000 from OutKast.
Burr also doesn't seem to be a very flashy or verbose rapper, reflecting his middle-of-the-road outlook. That's because he's at his most expressive when he sings.
Thomas Jefferson's larger than life nature in the musical at first conflicts with his RL quiet almost shy personality ... until you consider that rapping= literary intellect and suddenly, Hamilton's Jefferson is a representation of Jefferson's writing, which was larger than life.
Why is the musical called "Hamilton" and not "Alexander Hamilton"? Because in the end, Alexander wasn't the Hamilton who told the story. It was Eliza.
At the beginning of the musical, everyone is dressed up in parchment-coloured outfits except for Burr, who is dressed in a dark coloured outfit. This not only illustrates his status as the villain of the musical but also the narrator. Burr represents the words on the parchment of Hamilton's story.
There's a famous superstition that a certain Scottish tragedy by William Shakespeare is cursed, and one should not speak the name of the play in a theatre. In the song "Take a Break", there are four references to it - either spoken by or involving Alexander Hamilton, whose life starts to go downhill as soon as the song ends.
Alexander begins his letter to Angelica with a quote from one of Macbeth's soliloquy, "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day." Macbeth says this just after his wife's death and just before his rule falls apart as his enemies' move up to his castle at Dunsinane.
Alexander: "I trust you'll understand the reference to another Scottish tragedy -" (The first Scottish tragedy being himself, of course.)
Angelica to Alexander: "Screw your courage to the sticking place -" (a line by Lady Macbeth to her husband in act 1, scene 7, just before he kills the king on her advice)
Another thing that's considered bad luck in the theater is whistling. Philip does this at the beginning of "Blow Us All Away", and dies the very next song.
It's been noted several times that, in their final duel, Burr was hasty and Alexander chose to "wait for it"—Aaron becoming more like Alexander, and vice versa, ultimately leads to the latter's death. However, there's a more subtle time this comes out: in "Your Obedient Servant," which comes directly after Hamilton endorses Jefferson and costs Burr the election, he addresses Burr as "Mr. Vice President". Though not intended as an insult, it nevertheless must fuel Burr's anger; in the previous song, Thomas Jefferson refuses Burr as Vice President, essentially destroying his political aspirations, and even tells Burr to thank Hamilton for the endorsement after the refusal. Hamilton, not being present yet knowing the status quo of the time, simply assumed Burr would be the Vice President—this time, he was the one who wasn't in the room where it happened. Once again, Hamilton's tendency to act like Burr ultimately leads to his demise.
Historically, though Jefferson did change the "candidate to get the second highest number of votes becomes VP" rule, Burr did serve as vice president for his first term. However, the Vice President has virtually no official powers, and Jefferson gave him essentially no role or influence in his administration, making the title almost worthless. And even that term in office was due to expire in 1804...
During "Aaron Burr, Sir,", Burr notes that "Fools who run their mouth off wind up dead," and reinforces it with a "...like I said." after Laurens, Lafayette and Mulligan enter, making one Badass Boast after the other. This becomes a brilliant Genius Bonus when one learns that Burr outlived all of themnote Specifically this foreshadows Laurens' death at the end of Act 1, as Burr says his line immediately after Laurens shouts "What time is it? Showtime!":
Alexander Hamilton: By 32 years.note Though this one is cheating, since Burr is the one who killed him...
John Laurens: By 54 years.
Marquis de Lafayette: By 2 years.
Hercules Mulligan: By 11 years.
Burr's line "When Alexander aimed at the sky / He may have been the first one to die" has a hidden meaning. Burr is obviously referring to the fact that Hamilton's attempt to throw the duel cost him his life. But remember that to aim at the sky can also mean to be very ambitious, and Hamilton's ambition did bring him a lot of trouble. In fact he's directly compared to Icarus; Angelica tells Eliza that he's "flown too close to the sun". Philip Hamilton is also very ambitious and sings "I was aiming for the sky" as he dies; in the same way and for the same reason his father would later die, as well.
Similarly, it's a bit ironic how Hamilton's Arc Words are "I am not throwing away my shot" when it could be argued that his dueling style/preference of shooting into the sky is throwing away your shot.
The primary logo of the play is Hamilton pointing to the sky, once again nudging at the final thing he'd do by the end of the play.
John Adams is an entirely off-stage presence— which is fitting, since he's already had a Broadway play to himself. In 1776, George Washington is treated similarly, as he never appears in the play, but the Congress often receives depressing letters from him. In a joint phone interview with William Daniels, who originated the role of John Adams on Broadway and played him in the film version, Lin-Manuel Miranda says that Daniels' image of Adams is so powerful that Hamilton can get away with just mentioning him and everyone will picture Daniels.
In "Wait For It", one of the choruses is delayed by 3.5 measures - forcing the audience to literally wait for it.
Hamilton, normally a skilled wordsmith, loses his eloquence during times of high emotion:
His verses in "Dear Theodosia" are very simplistic, and occasionally lacking in rhyme, conveying how he is "undone' by the joy he feels at his son's birth.
"It's Quiet Uptown" is very slow, also oftentimes with no rhymes.
"Tomorrow There'll Be More of Us," the only "moment" not on the soundtrack, has Hamilton's only spoken parts in the play.
The double casting provides an added layer of meaning to some of the lyrics:
In "Alexander Hamilton", Lafayette/Jefferson and Mulligan/Madison note how they "fought" with Hamilton - meaning Lafayette and Mulligan fought alongside him in the Revolutionary War, whereas Jefferson and Madison fought against him on government policies.
John Laurens/Philip Hamilton says he died for Hamilton; both men engaged in duels for the honor of Hamilton, who was their friend and father, respectively.
Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds says she loved him - Peggy as a sister(in-law), Maria romantically.
The last exchange between Lafayette and Hamilton is: "See you on the other side!" "Till we meet again!". When the actor playing Lafayette reappears in the show, he is playing Jefferson - who is Hamilton's chief opponent in cabinet debates (i.e. on the other side from Hamilton). This is also the last time, both in the play and historically, that Hamilton and Lafayette are together. So they will not see each other again until they are both "on the other side" ie. dead. This is a term Hamilton uses to refer to the afterlife later in the play during The World Was Wide Enough.
The actor playing Lafayette/Jefferson goes back to France (off-stage), and comes back from France as Jefferson.
Jefferson is fighting Hamilton for the US to give aid to the French: including Lafayette. Hamilton promises Lafayette that if his people fight for freedom, the US will be there to help. Jefferson is trying to hold Hamilton to the promise he made to him- er, Lafayette.
During the intro to "The Battle of Yorktown", Hamilton enthusiastically assures Lafayette that America will help him bring freedom to France. Lafayette immediately changes the subject back to the battle at hand, basically ignoring Hamilton's pledge of support. It may be that Lafayette didn't want to burst Hamilton's bubble, but was more conscious of the political realities of trying to get involved in another country's revolution (having some personal experience in that matter) and realized, even then, that it was a promise Hamilton was unlikely to keep.
In context of the show's casting, Burr's "talk less, smile more" comes off as someone advocating respectability politics. Like a lot of people who try it in real life, it doesn't work out well for him.
In both Cabinet Battles Hamilton is granted the rebuttal position. This is because in real life, when the financial plan was proposed, Washington let Hamilton read Jefferson's statement before drafting his own. Washington really was on his side.
The "Un, deux, trois," melody is composed of two parts, one rising and one falling - symbolic of Hamilton's meteoric rise and snowballing downfall. The first time we hear it is in Ten Duel Commandments, but briefly. It came back in full force during Cabinet Meeting #1, repeated over and over, like a reminder that Hamilton has risen and now he is going to fall.
Right in the middle of the play, at the very end of the Act I finale, Alexander's arc words are said. And it's probably the biggest example of foreshadowing in the play (it even includes a subtle Title Drop):
In "You'll Be Back," King George's line "Now you're making me mad," has a double meaning. The first and most obvious one is that the colonists are making him angry; indeed, he speaks the line like a father scolding a misbehaving child. However, it could also be interpreted as "you're driving me mad", where "mad" is used in the sense of "insane". This is a good bit of foreshadowing, as the real King George had quite a bit of failing mental health later in life.
In a deleted song, Hamilton refers to The Reynolds Pamphlet as "an act of political sacrifice", which is a bit odd, because it's not made clear who he's sacrificing for. (He publicly embarrasses himself and his family to dispel accusations of financial misconduct). Given Hamilton's obsession with 'legacy', it's important to note that Washington had personally tapped him as Treasury Secretary, entrusting him with the nation's finances. An adulterous affair might be the bigger scandal, but even the suggestion that he is using the position to enrich himself would also threaten the legacy of his mentor and surrogate father. He may have realized that the truth implicated only himself, and didn't want the President to be dragged into it.
Unlike the other two duels of the show, Phillip's duel with Eaker does not repeat the Ten Duel Commandments. Not only that, but Eaker outright skips several of the reconciliation steps in the lead up. This is Five-Second Foreshadowing that he is not a man of honor. While we are at it, Phillip himself breaks them by throwing away his shot, as Rule #9 is to "Look him in the eye, aim no higher". Similarly, Hamilton, who also breaks Rule #9 in this way, can hardly be described as a 'man of honor' after cheating on his wife.
In "Right Hand Man", Washington tells Hamilton "Dying is easy, young man. Living is harder." Say No To This and The Room Where It Happens are the numbers in which Hamilton's life starts going downhill. In the latter, Hamilton and Burr have this exchange:
Burr: They renamed it (Clermont street) after him, the Mercer legacy is secure.
Burr: And all he had to do was die.
Hamilton: That's a lot less work.
Burr: We oughta give it a try.
This line contradicts Washington's line and is the moment where Hamilton wanders away from him, when he's basically Hamilton's voice of reason. No wonder why he kept messing up!
Not just wanders away from him. Hamilton's life starts going belly up in "Take a break", where he refuses to go upstate with his family for the summer. Why? Because Washington told him that if he doesn't get congressional approval on the debt plan, Jefferson and his allies might pressure Washington into removing Hamilton as secretary of treasury (leaving him jobless and probably also broke), and tells him to "figure it out". Granted it was an implication of "I cannot fight every battle for you, you have to learn this kind of fight as well", but still, Washington leaving him stumped and scrambling for ideas was what made him stay in New York, which lead to the whole Reynolds affair as she could obviously only tempt him because he was there in the first place.
In "The Room Where It Happens", Burr's amusement at Congress "fighting over where to put that nation's capital". A man of no fixed opinions of his own, it's no surprise that Burr finds this much passion being expended on something he believes "doesn't matter" to be amusing.
Angelica is the only woman in the play who raps, which befits her outspoken and opinionated nature, and also suggests that she's a better match for Hamilton than Eliza.
Eliza is also the only woman who beatboxes, which fits her supportive nature and tendency to be in the background of her sister, husband, and children.
In Ten Duel Commandments, Hamilton says that Commandment Number Six is to "leave a letter for your next of kin/tell 'em where you've been, pray that hell or heaven lets you in". Much later, in Best of Wives and Best of Women, Hamilton tells Eliza that "[he] just needs to write something down" - which would be his letter to Eliza and his surviving children.
Throughout the play, certain characters' musical styles markedly evolve. Most notably is Jefferson, whose funk style in "What'd I Miss?" reflects how he "basically missed the late eighties" eventually becomes the fast-flowing freestyle raps of the Cabinet Battles and "Washington on Your Side". But additionally, Burr, who refuses in Act 1 at least twice to "spit a verse", eventually learns to do so for "Alexander Hamilton", which is more of a benefit for the audience than part of the narrative.
Why is it Angelica singing with Alexander for most of It's Quiet Uptown instead of Eliza, when it's about what Eliza and Alexander went through? Well remember one of Angelica's returning lines: "I know my sister like I know my own mind." She knows exactly what her sister feels but she is able to articulate it whereas Eliza is still reeling with shock.
It's also notable that prior to this, in "Burn", Eliza is "erasing [herself] from the narrative", meaning that she has nothing more to say, and doesn't do much of any extended singing through the rest of the musical. The only time she is brought to sing again is because of Philip's death. The next time she has an extended role is when she "puts [herself] back in the narrative" in "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story."
Eliza is the one who finishes the musical, not Burr, and as "Who lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story" says, she's the one who's preserving the memories of the soldiers of the war, Washington and her late husband. So the true narrator is her, not Burr, as what we get from him is just that he's an orphan, graduated fast and was somewhat passive and ambiguous, since she didn't know him more personally than Alexander might have. That's why Musical!Eliza Schuyler is different from Historical!Eliza (who was described as more abrasive)— of course she would not sully her own image, making herself look more sweet than she really was. Also, her musical style, along with King George III, is different from the other characters and it's the only one talking about being a part/not being a part of the story of Alexander - and at the end she comes back to tell the story.
The line of Laurens on "Alexander Hamilton" ("I died for him") also can mean that he was in love with his friend (at least in Spanish we have the expression "Morir de amor"/"Dying of love" as you feel a great and burning love for someone, and sometimes it also implies that that love isn't reciprocated or is impossible - in this case, because Laurens himself was married and society will scorn them). Lin-Manuel Miranda speaks Spanish so he must know about this phrase.
Angelica's line in "It's Quiet Uptown" ("It feels easier to just swim down, The Hamiltons move uptown") can be interpreted as taking the high road (down, up), although that might just be a coincidence.
"Why do you assume you're the smartest in the room? / Soon, that attitude will be your doom" One way to show a character is smart is to show them wearing glasses. Hamilton wearing glasses is part of the reason Burr was worried Hamilton was going to kill him (to help him aim better), and partly led to his decision to kill Hamilton first.
In "The Room Where It Happens", Burr says "Click, boom! Then it happened." "Click, boom!" not only sounds like a door being slammed shut, but it also sounds like a gun being set off. This line foreshadowed Hamilton and Burr's duel later on.
Not only that, but just before the final "Click, boom!", the piano can be heard playing the "Alexander Hamilton" jingle (it's a lot easier to hear on instrumental tracks). Even the piano in the background is foreshadowing the duel the musical ends on.
The Hamilton-Burr duel ended how it did based on how the two men knew each other. Hamilton was very non-stop; always up for a fight and willing to die to prove his point, never backing down or taking back what he says. Burr was circumspect by nature; he wasn't a man of action and he preferred to wait to see how things would play out first. So of course Hamilton assumed Burr wouldn't shoot, and of course Burr assumed Hamilton would.
Despite what the last song of the show might imply, Eliza didn't do that good a job at telling Alexander's story, since most people barely knew a thing about him until the musical came around. The real person who has ended up telling Hamilton's story is Lin-Manuel Miranda. (However, it is Eliza who collected all the information that helped create the musical in the first place and got biographies set up.)
During "History Has Its Eyes On You", Washington reveals that he was a little younger than Alexander when he got his first commanding status. This makes sense as, in real life, Washington and Hamilton were very close. In fact, in history, Washington was very much the antithesis of both figures important to the play; Hamilton and Burr. Washington was an ambitious man in nature and had political goals, but like Burr, he was a lot more careful in his way of doing things and knew when to keep it in check, while like Hamilton he did have his aspirations and thus something to fight for. Really, both Burr and Hamilton could have ended up like Washington depending on their choices. And given he's the Big Good of the story, it makes sense they would play up this aspect of him more.
In "The Election of 1800," three women openly support Burr. In real life, Burr was remarkably ahead of his time in terms of women's rights — he even submitted a bill to allow women to vote. Jefferson, meanwhile, was about as sexist as to be expected of a man in 1800. Of course women would rather have Burr in office! (Burr appears to know this, too, since he outright appeals to the women in his speeches: "Ladies, tell your husbands — vote for Burr!")
During the coda, the concentric circles of the stage (more noticeable in the Disney+ version) form a Bullseye, showing that Hamilton had a target on him the whole time.
The Bullet, AKA the ensemble member who carries the bullet whenever a gun is shot in Slow Motion, plays a much larger role than most people realize, as she appears to personify death itself.
In her first prominent role, she appears as a spy who is abruptly killed by a redcoat after "You'll Be Back". From this point onward, she reappears whenever death (or an event leading to death) plays into the story.
At the start of "Stay Alive", she carries a bullet (shot by a redcoat) that metaphorically flies above Hamilton's head. It's as if death is literally gunning for Alexander, though his time hasn't come quite yet.
She's the one who helps Laurens kill a British soldier during the battle of Yorktown, and the two shake hands afterwards. A few scenes later, Laurens himself is killed.
In "Blow Us All Away", she plays the flirtatious young girl who informs Phillip about George Eacker's whereabouts, which of course leads to their fateful duel.
During "Your Obedient Servant", she hands Burr his quill so that he can write the first letter that leads to his eventual duel with Hamilton. And of course, she's the one who delivers the killing bullet to Hamilton during his final monologue.
"The Room Where It Happens" is, of course, Aaron Burr's "I Want" Song. As befitting of a man like Burr, who prefers to "wait for it" and doesn't quite understand just what it is that he really wants, the song doesn't come until halfway through Act II and doesn't even become an "I Want" Song until four minutes in.
Burr spends the second half of the play wanting to be "in the room where it happens." At the end, he is ushered away from a wounded Hamilton and isn't there to see him die. Once again, he wasn't in the room where it happened.
Notice the instrumental backing for "Stay Alive Reprise." Most of the instruments fade out, leaving only the beat of the bass drum, which obviously symbolizes Philip's waning heartbeat in his final moments. In "My Shot," Hamilton describes death as "a beat without a melody."
Then when Hamilton is about to die and delivers his final monologue, there is also no backing instrumental. But interestingly, there is no drum beat either. That's because all of this is happening in a fraction of a second, perhaps between heartbeats!
"There is no beat, no melody." What you hear instead is the sound of wind rushing. Almost like a hurricane. Recall the lyric "In the eye of a hurricane, there is quiet." The monologue is the eye of the hurricane - the one moment of calm in an otherwise tense climax.
One of the more obvious uses of Foreshadowing through Leitmotif is at the beginning of "Take a Break," in which Phillip counting to ten is the same melody used in "Ten Duel Commandments," symbolizing how Phillip would eventually be killed in a duel. When that duel finally happens in "Blow Us All Away," Phillip gets shot on "seven." Then in "Stay Alive Reprise," he dies on "trois" (three). Add them together, and you get ten!
Miranda himself has described Hamilton as a love letter to the rap genre. It thus makes sense that Hamilton's dying monologue isn't technically rap at all, but is instead a speaking style often associated with rap: slam poetry.
While understandable that Hamilton's idea to publish the Reynold Pamphlet and nearly destroy both his career and marriage was a pretty stupid one, however, it's possible something else was at play. Hamilton, in the play at least, is established to be a man bound to honor and decency and Say No To This made it very clear he was racked by guilt by what he'd done, but could find no way out. The Reynold Pamphlet, in a way, was Hamilton's guilty conscience forcing him to come clean with his crime. Yes, he'd face severe backlash, but at least he could look himself in the mirror and not be ashamed.
And when Hamilton explains and can document everything, Jefferson responds, "My God!" Jefferson realizes that not only was Hamilton being truthful, he himself would be in political trouble if any of his supposed affairs came to light at the time.
When Burr introduces the Schuyler sisters at the beginning of their titular song, he actually names them off in the order they died in: "his daughters, Peggy (1801), Angelica (1814), Eliza (1854)".
The lyrics to "Say No To This" also fit with Maria Reynolds' feelings on the situation. More specifically, "How can I say no to this? There is nowhere I can go..." The fact that historically, James Reynolds forced Maria to do it with Alexander, makes it even worse. Also, the fact she wanted to write her own pamphlet around her own side of the story, and...
Peggy and Phillip died in the same year (1801). As one Tumblr user pointed out, Eliza was very likely wearing black when she arrived at Phillip's side in Stay Alive Reprise because she was at Peggy's funeral/mourning Peggy. The heartbreak Alexander referred to in Blow Us All Away was very likely Peggy's death.
By the end of the play, however, Eliza is basically alone. She is forced to raise very small children, one of whom is a young adult who had suffered a severe mental breakdown following Phillips death and essentially regressed to a small child. How she herself didnt go mad with grief is a miracle.
In 'Hurricane', Hamilton notes that while in the eye of the hurricane, it's quiet for just a moment. Then the chaos resumes. Well, in the song immediately afterward, what happens? He's in the center (the eye) while chaos flies all around him (ala, a hurricane.) In other words, he was in a hurricane of his own making and that precise moment he wrote the pamphlet, he was in the eye.
In the second cabinet battle, Hamilton says "Lafayette's a smart man, he'll be fine". To make a long story short, by the end of the French Revolution, the real Marquis de Lafayette was anything but fine; after everything he suffered, the only thing that could really be said for him is that he and most of his children survived. Hamilton's faith in his friend directly led to Lafayette's suffering in the Revolution.note Lafayette would spend at least five years in prison while his family were either hiding or being killed.