Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton" is a Broadway musical that tells the story of the founding fathers, more specifically, Alexander Hamilton. Since its debut in 2015, the production began to catch the eye of younger generations, as it takes its own spin on history. The musical strays away from traditional musical theater, as it features hiphop and pop-like music. Therefore, Miranda decided to cast the roles in the show to match the music included in it, signifying that these styles of music were created and widely spread by people of color. So when Disney Plus announced they would be adding the film version of the Broadway musical to their streaming service, it's safe to say theater lovers everywhere were more than excited.
The film is a recording of the original Broadway cast back in 2016. Immediately following the debut of the film on July 3rd, the "Hamilfilm" made waves across social media. People who would have never listened to the musical soundtrack found themselves learning and singing every single word of this rap-inspired musical. However, there was one thing on people's minds when watching the film: How historically accurate is this musical about "Hamilton's America"?
WARNING: Spoilers lie ahead. If you have not seen the film, don't say I didn't warn you!
1. Satisfied or Helpless: Did this love triangle really happen?
At first conversation, Elizabeth Schuyler seems to be the first love interest when she meets Alexander Hamilton in "A Winter's Ball." However, given her sister Angelica's point of view, Angelica gave up her fever crush and handed Hamilton over to her younger sister. Throughout the film, there is a love triangle that has obviously developed between the Schuyler sisters - Angelica and Eliza. Is this what actually happened, or were the details hyperbolized to make the story more interesting?
If we look back at notes from creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, he explains how the story is shown through music. Elizabeth Schuyler, Hamilton's wife, sings throughout the show. When Angelica performs her number, she raps with consistency and at quite a fast pace. This is parallel to Hamilton's musical numbers, which are also fast paced and intricate. This is supposed to demonstrate the relationship between Hamilton and Angelica as intellectual equals. Ron Chernow, the writer of the book that the musical is based on, explained in interviews how there was never actually any proof of the relationship being taken further than intimate letters.
Though the two flirted back and forth in letters, Elizabeth Schuyler knew of the relationship and it was seen as harmless. The two cared deeply for each other, but there is no proof the relationship went anywhere. Miranda and his team agreed there were some artistic differences that they took when writing the show to make the story fit better.
Fun fact: In the musical number "Helpless," Angelica jokes with her sister about forming a harem and says, "I'm just saying if you really loved me you would share him." This line is actually poking fun at a line from an actual letter Angelica wrote to her sister. The real line says:
"I love him very much and if you were as generous as the old Romans, you would lend him to me for a little while."
2. What happened to Peggy?
There are three Schuyler sisters - so how come we never see Peggy Schuyler after the first act?
Throughout the first act, all three Schuyler sisters can be seen at each others' side. In the musical number "Helpless," Hamilton explains how the sisters had their own individual relationship with him and how Peggy confides in him. Peggy is also seen to be a part of Eliza's wedding. However, some fans noticed that in Act 2, specifically in the number "Take A Break," Peggy is no where to be seen on stage. This is because Peggy actually passes away at the young age of 42 due to a common cold.
Though the musical declines to address this section of the Schuyler sisters' history, it is important to remember the impact Hamilton had on Peggy's life. The musical does touch on their relationship, but they were much closer than most would know. In fact, according to the New Netherland Institute, Hamilton was the only person present at the time of her passing. He happened to be in Albany at the time, and even wrote to Eliza to break the news of her sister's passing.
Fun Fact: In "Take A Break," when Angelica is greeting her sister Eliza, they introduce themselves musically as they did in the first act. The only difference now is that this time there is a musical rest after the girls say their names. This is supposed to signify the absence of their sister without blatantly stating that she passed away.
3. The Reynolds Pamphlet: Have You Read This?
In Act 2 of the show, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison approach Hamilton and explain that they know something. They have found transactions of Hamilton paying money to a Mr. James Reynolds, and they believe he is slandering the government's funds. The truth is that Hamilton has been having an affair and has been paying the woman's husband to keep it a secret. Obviously, he isn't embezzling government money, but they don't believe him. So Hamilton proves he never broke the law and explains the affair to the men. His colleagues believe him and agree to keep this a secret. However, Hamilton becomes paranoid and believes the only way he can save his reputation is by telling the truth before anyone can oust him, hence, the Reynolds Pamphlet.
Now, this is where history gets a bit tricky. There are different sources that would differ on who actually approached Hamilton about his affair with Maria Reynolds. For example, the Smithsonian wrote in "Alexander Hamilton's Adultery and Apology" that it was in fact James Monroe, accompanied by fellow Congressmen Frederick Muhlenberg. It was said that the two had visited James Reynolds in jail, for he was imprisoned at the time for committing forgery and that he claimed he had dirt on Hamilton. He told the two men what the situation at hand was and left them to their devices.
The story was passed onto Republican James Callender. It was believed that he wrote a pamphlet in 1797 explaining how Hamilton was involved in the speculation scheme. Hamilton decided that there was no use in denying all charges, as the proof could be simply pulled out of anyone's pocket. To be threatened and labeled as corrupt would ruin his career and ruin the possible future of The Federalist Party. Thus, he wrote a document explaining the real crime: adultery.
THIS document is believed by many to be what actually persuaded Hamilton to write The Reynolds Pamphlet.
Fun Fact: Some time before the publication of his pamphlet, Hamilton's former mistress Maria Reynolds sued her husband for divorce. The attorney that guided her through that process was, of course, Aaron Burr.
Lin-Manuel Miranda has said in numerous interviews that he and his creators tried to be as historically accurate as they could be while still making the musical entertaining. While the musical is not historically perfect, it serves as an amazing platform to get the attention of younger generations and still educate them at the same time.
"Hamilton" continues to make waves and tells history in a way that translates to new-age America, and at the end of the day, the Broadway musical continues to tell the stories of history.