By Thomas Campbell
Just like my country I’m done, cranky and touchy, but I am not throwing away my thoughts. I want to express the absolute pleasure experienced by seeing the 2022 tour of Hamilton. Every time I get the chance to do something in a crowd, I count my lucky stars that COVID is finally, slowly getting under control and I pretend it’s impossible we could have another wave coming… but let’s move on.
I never was into seeing theatre growing up. Being in the closet (and being good at it) didn’t allow me such luxuries. So as an adult I have tried to branch out more, attempting to culture myself and experience the wide world of live musical performance. I must admit I did not go into Hamilton expecting to identify with any of its themes or narratives, but by the end I was feeling both seen and challenged at the same time.
There are plenty of morals for both young and old: focus on the now, forgive and forget, have convictions, marry rich, and so on. However, the overall underlying theme of the show is something I think we have seen throughout all world history. We’ve seen it in wars overseas, we saw it on January 6th, and we see it in our schools; words vs. violence.
There are three duels in the show, one in the first act and two in the second act with each one having heavy consequences for Alexander Hamilton. The first duel was punitive towards Lee for being unable to take action while in command. If he hadn’t been so unqualified, thousands of lives could have been saved, a fact which both Hamilton and John Laurens would not let slide. While vengeance is sweet, the taste is short lived and this first duel left Alexander without a chance of having the authority he had been yearning for. Did Lee deserve consequences? Absolutely. Did he deserve death? Assuming his intentions were good while he was in command, I would think not, but there wasn’t much discussion on the topic. In all reality, Washington likely would have found a fitting punishment and Lee’s reputation would have been irreversibly harmed, but Hamilton and Laurens took justice into their own hands, leaving themselves and their cause no better off.
Do you ever wonder why duels fell out of style? They used to be completely legal and everyone involved, even doctors, would respect the outcome. I suspect people started doing the math, realizing that those participating didn’t really feel better afterwards and that a delicate ego is easily bruised and slow to heal. In my head I used to figure only people who couldn’t articulate their thoughts would be foolish enough to put their life on the line for their pride, but history shows differently.
In the show they act like Philip Hamilton (Alexander’s son) and George Eacker’s duel was ill-considered, implying that other duels are genius, productive events. Do you remember what Philip died for? He died for the principle of ‘DON’T TALK
ABOUT MY DADDY THAT WAY!’ Was that more important than Philip leading a long, productive, fulfilling life where he contributed to the early years of American history? I don’t think it’s a competition, and Alexander didn’t think so either when this second duel left him without a son.
And finally we have the duel. Hamilton v. Burr. Both parties willingly participating, both parties having decided one of their deaths would fix all their problems. All resulting in a dead founding father and a villainised vice-president who ironically due to this duel over his run for the presidency would never get to hold high office again. Who wins in this outcome? It’s not a very dignified way to end a career or life, and we look back and laugh at their mistakes while making the same ones ourselves. Even with a wildly successful play preaching these morals around the country, senseless shootings and bar fights are unfortunately alive and well. More than raising your gun and shooting up, maybe just don’t accept the duel.
Though if Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr had gone out to dinner and sorted things out, we wouldn’t have this fantastic show. So maybe I’ll let it slide this once.
*In Spokane, WA Hamilton runs through May 22, 2022 at The First Interstate Center for the Arts. Visit www.firstinterstatecenter.org for tickets
*To see when Hamilton is coming to your town visit https://hamiltontickets.org/tour