Apologies for the delay in posting this. Here is my Gender Studies 101 paper in which I analyze the portrayal of gender in Hamilton: An American Musical. This is my paper in full, including the works cited page, and my typos; as a reminder, because I am a nerd, I earned an A.
I figured, for a supposed day of love, I’d share something I actually loved creating. Please enjoy.
Hamilton: An American Musical is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the zeitgeist of my generation. Written by and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, it garnered a record setting sixteen Tony nominations and won eleven awards, including Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Lead Actor, and Best New musical. Its accolades also include a Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album, performed by the original Broadway cast. (Hamilton (musical) Wikipedia.com) As its awards would suggest, this musical is advanced in multiple ways, including in its depictions of gender. In its casting choices, costume designs, and songs, Hamilton both affirms and counters stereotypical views of masculinity and femininity.
When performing an intersectional analysis, one looks at general attributes one could use to describe or categorize a group of people. These classifications can include race ethnicity, social class, and gender. (Aulette and Wittner 9) Hamilton utilizes its diversity to its advantage in creating a dynamic and captivating show.
Simply by looking at the original Broadway cast of Hamilton, one can already see how this musical differs from most other performances on the Great White Way. (Miranda and McCarter 18-19) The majority of the cast members are people of color. Its three main leads include one Latin man, one black man, and one half-Asian woman. The supporting cast includes three black men, two black women, one Latin man, and one white man.
Though there is seven-to-three ratio of men to women in the lead roles, the ensemble is an even split with six women and six men. Again, we see a group filled with people of color. Of the twelve people in the ensemble, only three are white. For a musical that is based on the lives of our founding fathers, this simple switch from history to art is a major change.
In the musical, four actors play dual roles, the switch occurring between the two acts. For better gender equality, it would been interesting to see women play the roles of Lafayette/Jefferson and Laurens/Phillip. In Act One, Lafayette is a staunch ally and confidant of the main character, and Laurens is Hamilton’s closest friend. In Act Two, Jefferson is Hamilton’s foe in the cabinet, and Phillip is Hamilton’s son. (Miranda and cast) Giving the roles of Lafayette/Jefferson and Laurens/Phillip to women would introduce interesting gender undertones as well as give the musical an equal proportion of male and female main characters.
On the surface, roles in the show trend towards the men, but digging deeper reveals greater female involvement than expected. The lesser named characters, specifically characters played by the ensemble on a rotating basis, include three roles only played by men. However, one role crucial to the entire musical, but is never named during any song, is The Bullet. Counter to expectation and stereotypes about male violence, The Bullet is played by a female ensemble member. Also, all ensemble members play group roles: soldiers, voters, cabinet members, and Federalists. Though historically women weren’t officially allowed to fight in the Revolutionary War, or have the right to vote until many years later, female ensemble members are included in portraying these actions in Hamilton. (Miranda and cast) Greater equality among the genders is shown if one were to only pay attention.
An obvious and omnipresent prop for gender performance in Hamilton are the various costumes. (Aulette and Wittner 77-78) When we are first introduced to the cast, we are also introduced to subtle displays of gender that will be maintained throughout the nearly three hour show. Initially, all cast members are in outfits made in plain canvas colored cloth. The leading men, with the exception of Burr, the main narrator, wear a white shirt, vest, coat, pants, and boots. The leading ladies wear a dress with a cinched bodice and long sleeves. (Miranda and McCarter 18-19)
The members of the ensemble wear similar outfits, but delving into the details reveals the subtlety of gender display. The men wear a vest with no shirt, showing their bare arms. They don loose fitting pants and boots. The women also wear a vest, but it is corseted in the back and has bows at either shoulder. Their pants are of a stretchy material, possibly leggings. The women also wear boots. (Miranda and McCarter 18-19) The male ensemble members show off their strength in their arms and are given pants that presume work must be down, hence the loose comfort. The women are given tops that require someone else to help them dress, pants that accentuate their read ends, and a top that includes a playful, childlike, accessory.
The counter-gender messaging via costuming occurs during the ensemble group roles. When the ensemble is comprised of soldiers, voters, cabinet members, and Federalists, the women lose their corseted tops and instead wear shirts just like the men, buttoned down and bare armed. (Miranda and McCarter 260-261) Both sexes sport either long coats as soldiers, or gloved hands and pseudo-ties as voters, cabinet members, and Federalists. (Miranda and McCarter 62-63, 260-261) Since the women took up “male” roles, they are dressed in more masculine attire. However, the pants remain the same throughout the show.
One stereotypical, and gloriously on the nose, costume choice was the outfit for King George. In a role played by a white man, the monarch comes out on stage in red fabric with gold trim, an ermine throw over his shoulder, a large gold and jeweled shoulder piece, and a crown. (Miranda and McCarter 56) King George is a rich white man who is the symbol of the monarchy, the wealthy class, and white straight male rule. He is unlike any other character in the show: mostly solo singing in his musical numbers, opulence in his dress, a Brit-Pop musical style, and a psychopathic need for control through violence. The character of King George is the very definition of hegemonic masculinity. (Aulette and Wittner 10)
Ultimately, my love for Hamilton begins and ends with the music. When reviewing the number and the focus of the songs, we again see how gender is a part of the play. There are forty-seven named songs in the show. (Miranda and cast) Of those, three are solos: two from King George and one from Eliza, the female lead. At first, this would seem like a point where men outpace the women. However, when you combine the times of both of King George’s solos, you find that his total time is less than that of Eliza’s one solo. A perceived bias turns out to be close to equity.
When looking at the rest of the songs, there is more male than female singing. For the purpose of my analysis, I defined a male dominated song as one where no female leads sing, but the ensemble is included. There are twenty such songs in the play. There are also seven songs where only the male leads sing; not even the ensemble contributes. This is more than half of the show. There are no songs, save Eliza’s solo, where only the female leads sing. However, there are three songs where the women are the main singers and fourteen songs where there is a mix of male and female singing. Though the men are given a large portion of the show, the women are still an enormous and important presence. Changing the casting of Laurens/Phillip and Lafayette/Jefferson to women would go a long way towards equal gender representation in the singing.
Hamilton features many different music styles, including classic Broadway, jazz, R&B, Brit-Pop, island music, and, most notably, rap. Hip Hop is the by far the most important language of the show. When analyzing the way rap is utilized in two songs, one can see how gender is again reinforced and countered. The power of masculinity is juxtaposed against the genius of the mind of a strong woman.
Guns and Ships is a fast meaty song occurring at the height of the war. The Marquis de Lafayette, played by Daveed Diggs, uses the song to boast of his military prowess. He brags about triumphs in battle, “makin’ redcoats redder with bloodstains.” (Diggs, Odom Jr., Jackson, and cast 0:33-0:34) His leadership is credited by Burr, in his roles as narrator, as a major reason why the colonists were successful against England. In Daveed Diggs’ delivery, the audience is gifted with rapid fire lyrics. The lines are packed with middle and end rhymes, including alliteration, assonance, and consonance. Lafayette shows his bravado in the first half of the song, and then switches to praise his friend Hamilton. The entirety of the two minutes and six seconds are about war, fighting, cunning, and blood, stereotypically masculine traits.
Satisfied takes place at a wedding. Angelica, the eldest Schuyler Sister, raises a glass and toasts to the marriage of Hamilton to her sister Eliza. The song then rewinds back in time. In the previous song, Helpless, we see how Eliza meets Hamilton, falls in love, is wooed by him, and their eventual marriage. In Satisfied, we learn Eliza was not the first Schuyler sister Hamilton met.
The song is a whirlwind of moments, realizations, and decisions made in the blink of an eye. Angelica describes her first encounter with Hamilton at a Winter’s Ball. Just through a brief conversation, she realizes Hamilton is her soul mate, but he is also interested in her family’s money. Angelica also sees that her sister has fallen for Hamilton, too. In a flash, Angelica analyzes the situation and decides to put family before her heart. Angelica loves and knows her sister well. She explains, “If I tell her that I love him she’d be silently resigned, He’d be mine. She would say, ‘I’m fine.’ She’d be lying.” (Goldsberry and cast 3:54-4:02) In her duty as eldest daughter, and because of her love for her sister, Angelica puts Eliza’s heart before her own.
Satisfied, given more than double the time of Guns and Ships, weaves a story of love and heartbreak. It shows Angelica’s sacrifice, but also exemplifies the power of her mind. Angelica’s rap is tongue twisting, quick, clever, intelligent, calculating, and empathetic. It is stereotypically emotional, but unstereotypically cerebral.
Two songs that exemplify how Hamilton runs counter to expectations of gender are positioned at opposite ends of Act One.
Dear Theodosia is a cooing melody sung by Burr and Hamilton centering on their love of their children. Both men had a child soon after the war ended. The song is slow, full of paternal pride and caution. Burr sings to his daughter, “When you came into the world, you cried and it broke my heart. I’m dedicating every day to you.” (Odom Jr. and Miranda 0:17-0:31) Like a lullaby, it soothes the audience after the boom and bombast of the war. Against expectation, it is a song full of softness sung by two strong men.
The Schuyler Sisters is our introduction to the leading ladies of the musical. It is also a feminist anthem rocked by three emboldened women. Peggy, Angelica, and Eliza Schuyler take a carriage into the city in search of “a mind at work”. (Goldsberry, Soo, Cephas-Jones, Odom Jr., and cast 1:06-1:09) The women remark on the march towards war with England, their thirst for knowledge, their political beliefs about equality, and their joy of being a part of history in the making. When confronted by Burr in his attempt to woo the oldest sister, he calls himself “a trust fund baby. You can trust me.” (1:34-1:36) Angelica and her sisters respond to his advance with zeal.
Angelica: I’ve been reading “Common Sense” by Thomas Payne. So men say I’m intense or I’m insane. You want a revolution? I want a revelation, so listen to my declaration.
Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
Angelica: And when I meet Thomas Jefferson,
Angelica: I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!
Women: Work! (1:36-1:55)
In this song, the women value intelligence over money. They are bold and confident. They are calling for equality in a society that does not afford such to them. This is how we are introduced to the leading women of the show, and nothing after this song diminishes our view of their strength.
Through compelling characters and excellent use of varying musical styles, Hamilton: An American Musical engendered enough devotion in me to sleep overnight on a city street in order to buy a ticket to see the show. The virtuosity of this musical is shown throughout its execution, down even to its portrayal of gender. A casual viewer can walk away without realizing they have seen a show that counters stereotypes of gender. Though men outnumber the women in the cast, it still features strong female characters in roles not often associated with the 18th and 19th century. The women are people who make choices and decide their lives for themselves. Costume choices to display gender difference or wash them away challenge stereotypical notions of what are women’s roles. The music gives voice to characters bold and strong and feminine. For those who are paying attention, Hamilton is brilliance unbound and feminist at its core.
“Hamilton (musical).” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton_(musical). Accessed
10 December 2016.
Aulette, Judy Root and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 2nd ed, Oxford University Press, 2012,
- 9, 10, 77-78.
Miranda, Lin-Manuel and Original Broadway Cast. Hamilton: An American Musical, Atlantic
Miranda, Lin-Manuel and Jeremy McCarter. Hamilton: The Revolution.1st ed., Grand Central
Publishing, 2016, pg. 18-19, 56, 62-63, 260-261.
Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom Jr., Christopher Jackson, and original broadway cast. “Guns and
Ships.” Hamilton: An American Musical, Atlantic Records, 2015.
Renѐe Elise Goldsberry, and original broadway cast. “Satisfied.” Hamilton: An American
Musical, Atlantic Records, 2015.
Leslie Odom Jr. and Lin-Manuel Miranda. “Dear Theodosia.” Hamilton: An American Musical,
Atlantic Records, 2015.
Renѐe Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, Leslie Odom Jr. and original
broadway cast. “The Schuyler Sisters.” Hamilton: An American Musical, Atlantic
Categorised as: Writing