Hey yo, I’m just like my country

I’m young scrappy and hungry

And I’m not throwing away my shot.[1]

 

By means of all created things, without exception,

the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us.

We imagined it as distant and inaccessible,

whereas in act we live steeped in its burning layers.”[2]

~ Teilhard de Chardin

It is said of the developing world that “intelligence is equally distributed; opportunity is not.” In their own way, the 2015 Broadway musical Hamilton and the 2018 film Black Panther address the same issue: the plight of races marginalized by history. While Black Panther gives its focus to Africans, both at home and abroad, Hamilton relives the tale of the American Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, himself an immigrant and an orphan, arriving in New York from the Caribbean island of Nevis and rising to become the first United States Secretary of the Treasury.  But Hamilton is cast nearly entirely with Black, Hispanic and Asian actors and actresses (save King George), and by using rap, R&B, and hip-hop, director Lin Manuel-Miranda (himself of Puerto Rican ancestry) uses Hamilton to open up American history to all. By identifying American Revolutionaries primarily as Blacks and Hispanics, Miranda not only makes American history theirs, but also connects the history of immigrants and marginalized races to that of America itself, “that great unfinished symphony.” [3]

In this companion piece to the Black Panther review, we will examine the same set of themes in the play Hamilton: the struggle for significance by individuals, the marginalization of entire groups, and issues of race, gender, family, fatherhood, love, and the hope and courage with which these challenges are me t. Once again, we will put film and stage in dialogue with theology and consider how C.S. Lewis and his Oxford colleague and fellow novelist, J.R.R. Tolkien, handled the same issues.

Hamilton: Young, Scrappy, and Hungry … and the World’s Gonna Know His Name

Like Black Panther, Hamilton offers a story laden with courage and hope set amidst fears and missteps. Hamilton follows the life of Alexander Hamilton, the “Founding Father whose story never gets told,” as he rises against all odds from his start as an orphaned immigrant,  becomes a senior aide to General George Washington in the Revolutionary War, writes extensively promoting the Constitution, and finally becomes the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. Hamilton equates himself with colonial America, or any group seeking its place in history, as he declares,

 

Hey yo, I’m just like my country

I’m young, scrappy, and hungry

And I’m not throwing away my shot

 

Hamilton brings American history, with all its hopes and revolutionary fire, alive. New York Times Reviewer Ben Brantley describes Hamilton as using rap, hip-hop, and R&B ballads to bring to life “long-dead white men” with black and Hispanic actors who “don’t exactly look like the marble statues of the men they’re portraying,” speaking with “a fervid mix of contemporary street talk, wild and florid declarations of ambition, and oh yes, elegant phrases from momentous political documents you studied in school, like Washington’s Farewell Address.”[4] Hamilton thus comes to embody the story of today’s immigrant and minority member.

The musical opens with Aaron Burr, whose career is entwined with Hamilton’s throughout, introducing a young Alexander Hamilton with

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman,

Dropped in the middle of a forgotten

Spot in the Caribbean

by providence, impoverished, in squalor,

grow up to be a hero and a scholar?[5]

A hopeful immigrant, the young Hamilton took a collection for his travel expenses, even jump-starting his own writing career with “his first refrain, a testament to his pain.”[6] Others add that he “got a lot farther, by working a lot harder, by being a self-starter, by fourteen they placed him in charge of a trading charter.”[7] Hamilton’s precocious mind and legendary work ethic (“this kid is insane”[8]) parallel the legendary drive and work ethic of American immigrants – “immigrants – we get the job done!”[9] He is driven by the expectation that “the world is gonna’ know [his] name.”[10]

To have your name known – this desire fits with the current definitions of poverty, which now include isolation from society.[11] So strong is this desire for connection that in rural areas like sub-Saharan Africa and India, where groups are involved in bringing electricity via solar energy to the 1.2 billion people who currently lack such, the overwhelming initial choice of uses for such electricity is for communication devices, such as cell phones, internet service, radio and television.[12]

But this desire in us is much stronger than simply for the world to “know your name;” to be known by God himself –  this is where the Christian faith speaks most strongly to us. The Judeo-Christian tradition pioneered individual rights, as all were held equal before the Jewish law, but the Christian writer C.S. Lewis shows just how significant the individual truly is. In his famous Weight of Glory sermon of 1941, Lewis concluded his discussion with:

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations,     cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat[13]

Invoking more poetic, celestial imagery, Lewis makes the point more spectacularly in Perelandra, from his sci-fi Space Trilogy, describing how

speech was turned into sight…he thought he saw the Great Dance. It seemed to be woven out of the intertwining undulation of many cords or bands of light, leaping over and under one another and mutually embraced in arabesques and flower-like subtleties… he could see also wherever the ribbons or serpents of light intersected, minute corpuscles of momentary brightness: and he knew somehow that these particles were the secular generalities of which history tells us – peoples, institutions, climates of opinion, civilizations, arts, sciences, and the like – ephemeral coruscations that piped their short song and vanished … far above these in girth and luminosity and flashing with colors from beyond our spectrum were the lines of the personal beings, yet as different from one another in splendor as all of them from the previous class.[14]

Lewis ultimately grounds individual value in Scripture. Contrasting the Christian faith with pantheism, which requires a complete loss of identity in a final union with the otherwise impersonal cosmos, Lewis reminds us of Revelation 2:17 in which each saint is given a new name in heaven:

What can be more a man’s own than this new name which even in eternity remains a secret between God and him? And what shall we take this secrecy to mean? Surely, that each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some aspect of the divine beauty better than any other creature can. Why else were individuals created but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently … If all experienced God in the same way and returned Him an identical worship … it would be like an orchestra in which all the instruments played the same note.[15]

But just as the American Republic is guided by the motto e pluribus unum (out of the many, one), the republic of Heaven reverses the score: from the One, many. It is not only in Divine family relations of the Trinity that a community is found whose hallmark is love, but as we are adopted into this family (“heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ,” Romans 8:17), we experience the joy of being with the many. Lewis’s orchestra of the saints has its earthly foretaste, in at least a secular sense, in Hamilton’s description of “America, you great unfinished symphony … a place where even orphan immigrants can leave their fingerprints and rise up.”[16]

And the One doesn’t just give way to the camaraderie of the many, as in Hamilton’s symphony or even Lewis’ orchestra; the Divine Orchestra Director pursues each member like the proverbial Hound of Heaven.[17] Just as Lewis’s Aslan, a Christ figure in Narnia who follows “I give you yourselves” with “I give you myself,”[18] or Lewis’s waterfall in The Great Divorce which “stood, like one crucified, against the rocks and poured himself perpetually down towards the forest with great joy,”[19] so does the one, true God pursue us to the point of sending Christ (Himself) as the heart of this orchestra, to dwell in the heart of each player. Lewis also captures this sense of God as the sovereign who pursues us in the following passage:

Men are reluctant to pass over from the notion of an abstract and negative deity to the living God. I do not wonder. Here lies the deepest tap-root of Pantheism and of the objection to traditional imagery … The Pantheist’s God does nothing, demands nothing. He is there if you wish for Him, like a book on a shelf. He will not pursue you. There is no danger that at any time heaven and earth should flee away at His glance. If He were the truth, then we could really say that all the Christian images-of kingship were a historical accident of which our religion ought to be cleansed … It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. “Lookout!” we cry, “it’s alive.” … An “impersonal God” – well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads – better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap – best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband – that is quite another matter.[20]

Hamilton’s quest “to have his name known,” to “not throw away his shot” on the stage of history, is merely a whisper compared to the song on the stage for the Divine Audience with whom we can find our significance. This is not to disparage the need for significance by groups ignored and mistreated throughout history, but is intended to place that yearning in its full context, the “burning layers” of the “divine (which) assails us”[21] of which Teilhard de Chardin informs us. Hamilton represents a sociological extrapolation of Augustine’s famous dictum, “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”[22]

Quest and Questions of Significance

The young Hamilton overcomes further hardships, such as his father leaving at age ten and his mother dying two years later, requiring him to move in with a cousin who soon commits suicide. His landowner asks him to manage his farm and trading activities, which gives the young islander his first opportunity. Hamilton had long dreamt of such an opportunity: “As a kid in the Caribbean I wished for a war. I knew that I was poor. I knew it was the only way to … rise up!”[23]

“Rise up!” – this anthem repeats throughout Hamilton. But it is more than a call to political revolution; it is a call to what lies behind every revolution – the chance to be heard, to be significant, and to be part of “the great conversation,” as opposed to a bystander, if not a floormat. The young Hamilton rises above his early setbacks, which “left him with nothin’ but ruined pride, something new inside, a voice inside saying ‘you gotta fend for yourself,’”[24](and after which “he started retreatin, and readin’ every treatise on the shelf”). And behind this “ruined pride” lay something deeper, even more fundamental: a desire to belong, to have someone, if only history long after he is gone, know his name. The young Hamilton “inside was longing for something to be a part of, the brother was ready to beg, steal, borrow or barter.”[25]

Lewis and Tolkien both speak of this need for significance. Tolkien showed how the question of significance lies deep within us in his poem Mythopoeia, penned in 1931 after an evening discussion with Lewis on the truth and power of the Christian story:

Yes! `wish-fulfilment dreams’ we spin to cheat

our timid hearts and ugly Fact defeat!

Whence came the wish, and whence the power to dream,

or some things fair and others ugly deem?

All wishes are not idle, not in vain

fulfilment we devised.[26]

Tolkien thus turns the tables on figures like Freud who see God as mere wish-fulfilment. Rather than simply wishing God into existence, it is our need to wish – for beauty, for God – that demands an answer. Tolkien follows the modern philosophy professor who, in response to the student’s question as to whether or not he even existed, gave the response, “And who, shall I say, is asking? Neither rocks nor streams nor dogs ask, ‘Why?’”

Lewis, as well, would later argue as much himself. Taking a cue, it would seem, from Tolkien (see above: “Whence came the wish, and whence the power to dream, some things fair and others ugly deem”), Lewis argues that our sense of beauty, and in fact our very moral sense, comes from what some have termed our “sensus divinitatas” grounded in our “imago dei” – our divine sense, stemming from our having been made in the image of God. It was precisely the judgment that certain things were good, and especially that others were evil, that confounded the young, non-Christian Lewis, ultimately spurring him on in his journey to faith. In the essay De Futilitate, while arguing that the mind could not make sense of the scientific world were it not imbued with the same intelligence built into the laws of math and science, Lewis finds our sense of morality, meaning, and justice to be just as crucial:

There is, to be sure, one glaringly obvious ground for denying that any moral purpose at   all is operative in the universe … the actual course of events in all its wasteful cruelty and apparent indifference, or hostility, to life. But then … that is precisely the ground which we cannot use.

Unless we judge this waste and cruelty to be real evils we cannot of course condemn the universe for exhibiting them. Unless we take our own standard of goodness to be valid in principle … we cannot mean anything by calling waste and cruelty evils … unless we allow ultimate reality to be moral, we cannot morally condemn it.

The more seriously we take our own charge of futility the more we are committed to the   implication that reality in the last resort is not futile at all. The defiance of the good atheist       hurled at an apparently ruthless and idiotic cosmos is really an unconscious homage to something in or behind that cosmos which he recognizes at infinitely valuable and authoritative[27]

One’s story should matter to history; it should matter in this life as well. The poetic heights to which this conviction rises (up!) drives Hamilton. Hamilton’s passion against injustice finds a resonance in Lewis, as he continues, “I cannot and never could persuade myself that such defiance is displeasing to the supreme mind. There is something holier about the atheism of a Shelley than about the theism of a Paley. That is the lesson of the book of Job.”[28]

Revolutionaries are thus, as Lewis argues, theologically in vogue.

Courage and its Source

Hamilton’s courage draws not just from wanting his voice to be heard, but also from his sense of justice, of right(s) and wrong. Hamilton and Burr are repeatedly offered as stark contrasts in courage and cowardice, Burr wondering of Hamilton, “Why do you always say what you believe?” and Hamilton asking, “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?”[29]  When the young Alexander Hamilton and friends throw in their fates with the cause of the Revolutionary War, courageously declaring, “I may not live to see our glory, but I will gladly join the fight,”[30] Burr backs away.  He is “willing to wait for it:” to wait for the British officer’s wife, with whom he is having an affair, to become his, and to wait for after the war “when everyone who loves me has died” to find the reason for his own survival.[31] And while Burr stakes his pragmatism on how “I am the one thing in life I can control,” and declares, “I’m not standing still, I’m lying in wait,” he sees that “Hamilton doesn’t hesitate. He exhibits no restraint. He takes and he takes and he takes and he keeps winning anyway.”[32] Hamilton’s feisty courage shows itself further when, despite his “skill with the quill being undeniable,” he “wants to fight, not write”[33] and take a position of command, which Washington refuses.

Courage in the face of chaos: the Director Miranda invokes the classic imagery of Shakespeare’s MacBeth to underscore Hamilton’s classic plight of the struggle for right.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

Creeps in this petty place from day to day”

I trust you’ll understand my reference to

Another Scottish tragedy without my having

to name the play

They think me Macbeth, and ambition is my folly

I’m a polymath, a pain in the ass, a massive pain

Madison is Banquo, Jefferson’s Macduff,

And Birnam Wood is Congress on its way to Dunsinane.[34]

Hamilton has quoted Macbeth at the point in the play where Macbeth’s confidence is shaken due to hearing of Lady Macbeth’s death and what appears to be the movement of Birnam Wood toward Dunsinane Castle where Macbeth is waiting. This speech is perhaps the most famous from Macbeth, echoing in its final lines the same sort of amoral chaos against which Hamilton finds himself, inspiring a courageous quest for justice and sanity.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time,

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.[35]

Hamilton pushes on in the face of such chaos and destruction and flourishes because of his courage. Lewis explains:

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of its highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions.[36]

Tolkien poetically describes such courage, as well, in his poem Mythopoeia written to Lewis, a poem which brings up images from his Lord of the Rings saga at various points:

Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate,

that quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;

that seek no parley, and in guarded room,

through small and bare, upon a clumsy loom

weave rissues gilded by the far-off day

hoped and believed in under Shadow’s sway.

 

Blessed are the men of Noah’s race that build

their little arks, though frail and poorly filled,

and steer through winds contrary towards a wraith,

a rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.[37]

Courage, arguably the chief virtue of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, is found in both daring battles against massive odds and in the dogged, persistent will to reach Mount Doom with the Ring. Tolkien found inspiration for this in Norse mythology, where gods and men were pitted together against destruction from monsters. Unlike the gods from Greek and Roman myths, who are, “not besieged, not in ever-present peril or under future doom”,[38] the Norse gods of Iceland, Denmark et.al. were “within time, doomed with their allies to death. Their battle is with the monsters and the outer darkness. They gather heroes for the last defense.”[39] While the Southern gods are thus “more godlike – more lofty, more dread … timeless and do not fear death …. It is the strength of the northern mythological imagination that it faced this problem (death, annihilation)[40], put the monsters in the center, gave them victory but no honor, and found a potent but terrible solution in naked will and courage. ‘As a working theory absolutely impregnable.’”[41]

Tolkien finds yet another strength of Norse mythology, the poem Beowulf in particular, which he single-handedly revived for critical appraisal, in Christian Scripture. Passages in Beowulf relating giants in a war with God, along with two mentions of “the undoubtedly Scriptural Cain” as the ancestor of the giants and Grendel particularly, Tolkien claims have special significance:

At this point new Scripture and old tradition touched and ignited…Man alien in a hostile world, engaged in a struggle which he cannot win while the world lasts, is assured that his foes are the foes also of Dryhten, that his courage noble in itself is also the highest loyalty[42]

The courage of Hamilton thus parallels that of Beowulf in this sense: they have the same faith and hope in a justice and goodness that they find lacking in their world.

Hamilton & Burr : Courage and its Counterpart

The courageous and bold Hamilton has a perfectly cowardly, calculating counterpart in Burr. Together, they demonstrate Lewis’ own statements on courage and cowardice:

Cowardice, alone of all the vices, is purely painful – horrible to anticipate, horrible to feel, horrible to remember … to make a wound deep in his charity, you should therefore first defeat his courage.[43]

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of its highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.[44]

In their initial meeting, the elder Burr advises young Alexander to “talk less, smile more / Don’t let them know what you’re against and what you’re for.”[45]

When Hamilton makes his name after the war in taking stands at Constitutional Convention as a delegate from New York, Burr half admires him – “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” – and half condemns him – “Why do you always say what you believe?”[46] Hamilton’s later retort is just as telling: “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?”[47]

Counter to the cowardice of Pilate that Lewis describes, Burr says of Hamilton, “Hamilton doesn’t hesitate. He exhibits no restraint. He takes and he takes and he takes and he keeps winning anyway. He changes the game. He plays and he raises the stakes.”[48] By contrast, Burr simply “wait(s) for it,”[49] hoping to find opportunity at the least costly price.

Hamilton’s derring-do shows in the war effort, where he becomes Washington’s right hand man, aiding the Revolution, which is “outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered, outplanned,”[50] underfinanced and faltering. Hamilton accepts the role, but squabbles with Washington, as he wants to head up a regiment: “Hamilton still wants to fight, not write, [though] Hamilton’s skill with a quill is undeniable.” Hamilton writes to Congress for more supplies, writes polemics against slavery, and even steals cannons from the British. Burr does not join in and says farewell to Hamilton until after the war, partly due to his living with the wife of a British officer.

After the war, Hamilton resumes his law practice, rising quickly so that he becomes one of New York’s delegates to the Constitutional Convention  “Maaaaan, the man is non-stop!”[51]   Everyday, he “writes like he’s running out of time.” Hamilton’s biggest battle, however, becomes the charge Washington gives him after being appointed Secretary of Treasury: to get his proposal for the Federal Government to assume states’ debts through Congress, thus extending credit to the states to fund their own economies. Hamilton runs into opposition from the South and the powerful Virginia delegation in particular – Thomas Jefferson and John Madison.  Agrarian Southern states are wealthier than their Northern brothers, though likely due to slave labor, as Hamilton reminds them, “Hey neighbor, your debt’s paid cuz you don’t pay for labor … yeah keep ranting, we know who’s doing the planting.”[52]  In a closed meeting, Hamilton somehow brokers a deal, against all odds, so that “the immigrant emerges with unprecedented financial power, a system he can shape however he wants” while the Virginians walk away with the Capitol getting moved from New York City to Virginia (the present day Washington D.C.).

Hamilton’s courage distinguishes itself from Burr’s cowardice throughout the story.  Alexander’s legendary is demonstrated by writing a series of pamphlets, The Federalist Papers, defending the new United States Constitution, along with John Jay and James Madison.  Burr refuses to help, Jay gets sick after writing five, Madison writes twenty-nine, and Hamilton writes an astounding fifty-one. By contrast, Burr’s resume reeks of calculated opportunism. He switches political parties for personal gain (defeating Hamilton’s father-in-law Philip Schuyler for the Senate seat from New York), and cannot fully commit to the side of the American Revolution, due in no small part to his courting a British officer’s wife. Burr’s name ultimately has been associated with the treason for which he was indicted but acquitted, seeking the personal gain of possibly a separate nation carved out of the American West. Hamilton ultimately denounces Burr, as we will see later; as Lewis noted, watching cowardice is painful, particularly for the courageous.

Belonging: Race, Gender and Family

This deep need for significance, for belonging, further drives such storylines as racial fairness, gender, family and love.  Of race, the young Alexander writes about the abolition of slavery, though the most poignant lines are given to fellow revolutionary Laurens:

But we’ll never be truly free

until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me,

You and I. Do or die. Wait till I

sally in on a stallion

with the first black battalion.[53]

It should be noted, however, that modern historians take some issue with the historical Hamilton and that of the play. Miranda based the play on the 2004 book by freelance journalist Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton,[54] but criticisms have been made that the actual Hamilton was not quite the abolitionist portrayed in the play.[55]

In regards to race, Lewis held a special place for all ethnicities. In his Space Trilogy, a persistent theme is the redemption of the better part of humanity from its distortion, of the poetic, Logres of the Arthurian legends of Britain from the petty shopkeepers of modern England. Thus, he states,

Of course, there are universal rules to which all goodness must conform. But that’s only the grammar of virtue. It’s not there that the sap is.  He doesn’t make two blades of grass the same: how much less two saints, two nations, two angels.  The whole work of healing Tellus (earth) depends on nursing that little spark, on incarnating that ghost, which is still alive in every real people, and different in each.  When Logres really dominates Britain, when the goddess Reason, the divine clearness, is really enthroned in France, when the order of Heaven is really followed in China – why, then it will be spring.[56]

Of gender, in Hamilton the Schuyler sisters both voice and demonstrate the strengths of their sex, calling for their own share of recognition and equality from history.  Alexander first meets the eldest of the Schuyler sisters, Angelica, though he marries the younger Eliza.[57] Angelica admits to reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine, and declares that when see meets Thomas Jefferson, to his “All men are created equal,” she declares “I’m a compel him to include women in the sequel!”[58]  After the sisters declare they are out to find in their men “a mind at work,” Angelica recounts later of her meeting Hamilton that, “So this is what it’s like to match wits / with someone at your level … it’s / the feeling of freedom, of seein’ the light / it’s Ben Franklin with a key and a kite!”[59]

As gender gives way to the larger consideration of family, Angelica and Eliza exhibit every bit the strength and fight as their male revolutionary counterparts, but for home and family rather than “God and country.”  Angelica sacrificially passes Alexander along to her younger sister Eliza upon realizing how smitten (“helpless!”) she was with him, though she had herself fallen in love with him and knows Eliza would have quietly and sacrificially done the same for her.[60]  And as Alexander’s career demands increasing portions of his attention, Eliza fights just as heroically for their family life in beckoning him to pay attention to young Philip their son, and “take a break / run away with us for the summer. Let’s go upstate, there’s a lake I know …”[61]

Even the male leads, Hamilton and Burr, yearn for the belonging found in family as well. Alexander finds in love and family a meaning entirely outside of revolution and politics, confiding in Eliza that

Insane, your family brings out a different side of me

No stress, my love for you is never in doubt, / we’ll get a little place in Harlem and we’ll figure it out

I’ve been living without a family since I was a child, / my father left, my mother died, I grew up buck wild.

But I’ll never forget my mother’s face, that was real

Eliza affirms the place of home and family when she informs Alexander she is pregnant with their first child, after writing Washington to send him home:

So long as you come home at the end of the day

That would be enough.

We don’t need a legacy,

We don’t need money …

If you could let me inside your heart,

Oh, let me be a part of the narrative

In the story they will write someday.

Let this moment be the first chapter:

Where you decide to stay

And I could be enough

And we could be enough

That would be enough.”[62]

And just as T’Challa and Stevens aka Killmonger in Black Panther dealt with the mistakes of their fathers, Burr and Hamilton find in their own children the opportunity to provide what their missing fathers could not provide them. Alexander finds “so much more inside” him than just “pride” when with his son Philip, who “outshines the morning sun” and “when he smiles I fall apart.” Likewise, Burr’s daughter Theodosia’s smile “knocks (him) out … makes (him) fall apart (though) I thought I was so smart.”  Ultimately both Burr and Hamilton are driven by this love to “make the world safe and sound for you … we’ll bleed and fight for you, we’ll make it right for you.”[63] The courage of both Hamilton and Burr in paving a world for their families is born not just from a strong desire for justice and righting wrongs, but in providing for their loved ones.

A singular, pithy comment from Lewis affirms his view of the primacy of family. In a letter to a Mrs. Johnson in 1955, Lewis stated, “A housewife’s work … is surely, in reality, the most important work in the world … your job is the one for which all others exist.”[64] Expanding on the thought, Lewis also there queried,

What do ships, railways, mines, cars, government etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr. Johnson said, “To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavor” …  We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it.[65]

In his own way, Tolkien affirmed as much, drawing a simple, contented picture of life in the Shire:

The Shire at this time had hardly any government. Families for the most part managed their own affairs. Growing food and eating it occupied most of their time.  In other matters they were, as a rule, generous and not greedy, but contented and moderate, so that estates, farms, workshops and small trades tended to remain unchanged for generations.[66]

We thus see how the pathos of Hamilton – pathos in the courage to forge a free nation, pathos in fighting for a sense of belonging against the tides of history, pathos in seeking a place for races, gender and family – is compelling and moving.  But these are issues that have been contemplated and spoken on by serious thinkers for generations, and we have seen how Lewis and Tolkien provide their own wisdom on these matters. We thus conclude part one of our look at Hamilton in conversation with Tolkien and Lewis. In part two, we will continue our comparison between Hamilton and Tolkien’s Middle Earth and Lewis’ Narnia by examining love and gender in more detail as well as our place in history and where we best find meaning and significance.


[1] Lin-Manuel Miranda, “My Shot,” Hamilton, (United States: Atlantic Recording, 2015).

[2] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu (1957), quoted in Jeffrey Overstreet, Through a Screen Darkly (Ventura California: Regal Books, 2007), 5.

[3] “The World was Wide Enough,” Hamilton, II.22.

[4] Ben Brantley, “Hamilton, Young Rebels Changing History and Theater” (New York Times, August 6, 2015), https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/theater/review-hamilton-young-rebels-changing-history-and-theater.html.

[5] “Alexander Hamilton,” Hamilton, I.1.

[6] Ibid., I.1.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 1.20.

[10] Ibid.

[11] http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/international-migration/glossary/poverty/.

[12] The author has some experience in this area, through groups such as www.ieee-smart-village.org  and www.se4all.org.

[13] C.S. Lewis, “Weight of Glory,” in Weight of Glory and other Addresses, ed. Walter Hooper (New York: MacMillan, 1980), 19.

[14] C.S. Lewis, Perelandra, (New York: Scribner, 2003), 187.

[15] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Collier, 1986), 149-150.

[16] Hamilton, II.22 “The World Was Wide Enough.”

[17]Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven in Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse, 1917.

[18] C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew (Norwalk , Connecticut: Easton Press, 1983), 128. Ch. 10.

[19] C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New  York: HarperOne, 2000), 49.

[20] C.S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: Collier, 1978), 93-94.

[21] See footnote 2.

[22] Augustine, Confessions, I.1.

[23] Hamilton, I.8 “Right Hand Man.”

[24] Hamilton, I.1.

[25] Hamilton, I.1.

[26] J.R.R. Tolkien, Mythopoeia, 1931. The poem was written to Lewis after an evening’s walk and discussion about how the Christian story had the power of myth, but was a myth that actually happened.  The place was Addison’s Walk, a path on the grounds of Oxford’s Magdalen College; the poem can be found online at http://home.agh.edu.pl/~evermind/jrrtolkien/mythopoeia.htm.

[27] C.S. Lewis, “De Futilitate” in Christian Reflections  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 69-70.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Hamilton, I.2 “Aaron Burr, Sir.”

[30] Hamilton, I.4 “The Story of Tonight.”

[31] Hamilton, I.13 “Wait for It.”

[32] Ibid.

[33] Hamilton, I.9, “A Winter’s Ball.”

[34] Hamilton, II.3, “Take a Break.”

[35] Shakespeare, Macbeth Act V, Scene 5, 22-31.

[36] C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters (New York: Harper Collins, 2000), Ch. 29, 161.

[37] J.R.R. Tolkien, Mythopoeia, 1931.

[38] J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Monsters and the Critics” in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (London: Harper Collins, 2006), 25.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Parenthesis is mine; the theme of death and annihilation follow Tolkien’s comments about the significance of his Lord of the Rings epic, “It is about death, mainly” written in a letter of xxxx; it also follows his theme of eucatastrophe as “joyous deliverance” from “sorrow and failure,” in short, “the Great Escape: the Escape from Death.” (Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories” in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, 153.)

[41]  J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Monsters and the Critics,” 25-26.

[42] Ibid., 26.

[43] C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters (New York: Harper Collins, 2000), Ch. 29, 160.

[44] Ibid., 161.

[45] Hamilton, “Aaron Burr, Sir,” I.2.

[46]  Hamilton, “Non-Stop,” I.23.

[47] Hamilton, “Room Where It Happens,” II.5.

[48] Hamilton, “Wait for It,” 1.13.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Hamilton, “Right Hand Man,” I.8.

[51] Hamilton, “Non Stop,” I.23.

[52] Hamilton, “Cabinet Battle #1,” II.2.

[53] Hamilton, “My Shot,” I.3.

[54] Ron Chernow, Hamilton (New  York: Penguin, 2004).

[55] Reed, Ishmael (August 21, 2015). “‘Hamilton: the Musical’: Black Actors Dress Up like Slave Traders…and It’s Not Halloween”CounterPunchArchived from the original on August 26, 2015. Retrieved November 28, 2016

[56] C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (New York: Scribner, 2003), 369.

[57] In fact there were fifteen Schuyler children; a third sister Peggy makes it into Hamilton, but has a minor role.

[58] Hamilton, I.5, “THe Schuyler Sisters.”

[59] Hamilton, I.11, “Satisfied.”

[60]  Once again, Miranda took some historical liberties for the sake of drama, as Angelica was in fact already married for two years and by then had two of her eventual eight children.

[61] Hamilton, II.3 “Take a Break.”

[62] Hamilton, I.17, “That Would be Enough,.”

[63] Hamilton, “Dear Theodosia,” I.22.

[64] March 16, 1955 letter to Mrs. John son, full context at http://www.essentialcslewis.com/2016/01/23/ccslq-19-homemakerultimate-career/.

[65] Ibid.

[66] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit (New York: Ballantine, 1986), 30.

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