Hamilton: An American Musical is an unquestionable modern phenomenon. It has supplanted Chicago, Wicked, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat as my favourite musical of all time. It’s a rap-based musical almost any naysayers of the genre in general should at least be able to stomach, its music is incredible, its lyrics succinctly poignant, its emotions conveyed brilliantly with the fervour that one can’t help but associate with Yanks in general (Yanks very much being the correct term for this crop of historical figures, given their status as New York natives).
But I’m calling bullshit on the romantic plot lines of this musical.
Don’t get me wrong, the idea that every woman in the world could be in love with Alexander Hamilton is certainly a flight of fancy I cannot possibly deny – one need only look to the popularity of heartthrob icons such as Richard Gere or Ryan Gosling – be still my beating heart – but no way, not-a-one do I believe Angelica Schuyler Church thought:
- Her husband was ‘not a lot of fun’;
- She would never be satisfied;
- “Why don’t I carry on a completely unethical intellectual affair with my favourite sister’s husband?” (paraphrased)
And that is exactly what the plot of the musical states she does.
Let’s delve a little deeper into Angelica Schuyler for a moment. Thanks to my late night Wikipedia problem, I know she was the oldest child of General/Senator Philip Schuyler and Catharine Van Rensselaer Schuyler. She was the oldest sister of Elizabeth, Margarita ‘Peggy’, and Philip Junior (another charming little falsification from the musical). She eloped with a British merchant who supported the Americas during the war.
Eloped, people! Eloping was not a thing people did back in the day of yonder era with codified and legal slavery if they were respectable and intelligent – not to mention wealthy. She married this man though she knew her father would likely disapprove of him (given Church was an Englishman and the Americans overthrew their British overlords during the Revolution); and she went on to travel the world with him and generally have a pretty fascinating life – forming friendships with people her brother in law Alexander viewed as his political rivals (Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and admittedly Hamilton’s friend the Marquis de Lafayette).
As if she was pining over Alexander.
As if she had nothing better to do with her life.
As if she had time with eight children… But anyway.
The point, is it’s inconceivable that in this day and age anyone thinks a witty and bright woman like Angelica would ever lose her head over some guy – especially when he was married to her favourite sister!
It’s such a popular Hollywood trope as well. It’s always the intelligent, witty, outspoken, bratty woman with powerful friends and well-honed social skills that people suspect of infidelity. It’s the same for men, but let’s not go into that when Alexander Hamilton is one of the key figures in this particular place (FYI: he succumbed. Look up The Reynolds Pamphlet).
Angelica Schuyler Church was a woman to envy as far as I’m concerned. Powerful men respected and trusted her – enough to write to her, enough to consult with her, enough to tease and mess with her the way they would a peer, an equal. And thanks to one musical, an entire generation of Americans may very well grow up thinking of her as some kind of B-grade woman whose entire contribution to her world was to be in love with someone wholly unsuitable, when history and logic suggest her portrayal in the musical is complete and utter claptrap.
Props to René Elise Goldsbery whose voice and acting ability are phenomenal throughout the show (and the many #Ham4Hams that I’ve watched like a rabid fangirl all this time). Thank you for still demonstrating Angelica’s loyalty, her strength, her nuances, her love for her sister.
In writing this, I also know that the musical is a recount of Alexander Hamilton’s life – not his eldest (and most cherished) sister in law’s. More so, it’s a musical narrated by his enemy, Aaron Burr. It still rubs me the wrong way though, that this incredible woman’s life is going to be relegated to before the musical gained popularity. Because from the minute my friend introduced me to the song ‘satisfied’, from the first time I listened to ‘Schuyler Sisters’, and the very second line of ‘Congratulations’, this woman who I have never known, whose letters I haven’t been able to get my hands on, and whose philosophies and beliefs I know so little of have been an inspiration to me.
And I won’t be satisfied till other people know how spectacular she was.
You can listen to the full soundtrack here.