Repetition and Reversals in HAMILTON

(Look at where you are / Look at where you started)


I claim without reservation that Lin-Manuel Miranda is Shakespeare 2.0. The composer/playwright/actor is heavily inspired by Shakespeare, which is evident in his Pulitzer-Prize Winning Hamilton, a strategically constructed historical tragedy.


What makes Hamilton so great? What is all the fuss—the buzz—about? Miranda’s lyrics and beats themselves are marvels, but it’s how he threads them together through universal themes that gives Hamilton its resounding resonance. (Look at me—I’m not even editing alliteration today.)

Each of the three primary characters in Hamilton has an armature, a theme which progresses through repetition and reversals to give each their own character arc.

While listening to the soundtrack of Hamilton, I took notes on repeated words, phrases, and motifs as I recognized them, thinking the repetition and reversals would be a great theme for a blog post…

After just one listen-through, I had five single-spaced pages of notes.

If you were wondering why I haven’t blogged in a while—it’s because I’ve been trying to decide which motifs to highlight. It’s because after taking my own notes, I’ve spent hours on Genius reading the annotated lyrics.

Obviously this post will be filled with spoilers if you don’t know Alexander Hamilton’s historical fate. I highly recommend listening to the full soundtrack, whether before, during, or after reading the following insights. Do note, however, that the lyrics are explicit and as such are likely not appropriate for children or work.

First let’s start with the most prominent motifs; then we’ll look at the primary arc for Eliza, Burr, and Hamilton.

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