A Novel from Eliza’s point of view…vs the musical
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I have had the good fortune to see Hamilton the musical twice. I am quite taken with the storyline, so it was a natural next step to read more on the subject. Perhaps I should have chosen Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton but instead I read My Dear Hamilton, an historical novel told from the point of view of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, wife of Alexander.
In the same manner that a book and the movie made from it can differ in the detail, so did these two fictionalized accounts of Alexander Hamilton’s life differ. Here are some of the differences.
The musical opens with Eliza and her sister, Angelica, meeting and BOTH falling immediately in love with Alexander Hamilton (AH). In the book, Angelica isn’t around at that first meeting and is indeed married with two children when Eliza and AH meet.
The musical leads you to believe the Hamiltons only have a child or two. The book chronicles all eight children.
The musical makes it seem like these four things happened in this order and in rapid succession: AH’s affair with Maria Reynolds, AH writing the Reynolds Pamphlet in explanation of it, Eliza learning of the affair, and son Phillip dying in a duel defending his father’s honor. In the novel this was a decade-long story. Eliza found out about the affair long before the writing of the Pamphlet and Phillip was only eleven when the Pamphlet was released. He didn’t die in a duel until age nineteen. (Though he was defending his father’s honor over a different matter at the time.)
One of the main songs in the musical is “My Shot.” It includes this phrase: “I am not throwing away my shot!” These words are sung dramatically and repeatedly to convey AH’s need to find glory in and make the most of his life! In the novel, it’s explained that in a duel, to shoot heavenward instead of at the opponent is called deloping which is a French term for throwing away your shot in a pistol duel. If Lin-Manuel Miranda explained this in the musical, I missed it — both times. Or perhaps he assumed I was smart enough to understand how cannily he used the term!
And finally, whereas AH’s affairs with his sister-in-law Angelica and with his friend John Laurens are hinted at in the musical, Eliza reads the actual love letters in the book.
Overall, it was interesting to learn more about Alexander Hamilton — and Eliza. Indeed, I might have to read Ron Chernow’s book next…
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