Saturday, March 23, 2019

ALEXANDER HAMILTON AND HIS SCHOLARSHIP FROM HELL

I have Hamilton buzzing in my head, beating in my heart, running through my veins. I feel this urge to write these thoughts out of my chest before they burst. Forgive everything that comes next, for it is the result of a maelstrom of Hamilton stimulus.


In the span of three days I saw Hamilton twice, first time 3rd row after winning the 'Ham4Ham' lottery, second time with previously purchased tickets, and it just happened to be the performance when LIn-Manuel Miranda appeared on stage at curtain call to the delight of the crowd.

I saw the musical first time in Chicago last summer, and fell in love, for multiple reasons, and could speak at length on each character's arc.  I would see it again, tonight. I just like how I feel when I am watching it.

What the hell does that have to do with Horror writing?

Well, I'm declaring our country's foundation was built upon a work of Hamilton Horror. Yep, a work of Horror.

Um, what?

First off, the story of Hamilton is the story of a writer. Someone obsessed with its power, and who could wield it like a wizard. Hamilton's"skill with the quill is undeniable" and his opponents knew that "as long as he can hold a pen, he’s a threat."

His words were part of what made Eliza fall in love with him, as she states:

"You and your words flooded my senses. Your sentences left me defenseless. You built me palaces out of paragraphs... You built cathedrals..."

But his obsession with writing starts to confound her as she asks:

"How do you write like tomorrow won’t arrive? How do you write like you need it to survive? How do you write every second you’re alive?"


If it weren't for his writing skills, he would have never made it to America, and what a different country we may have become. After the devastation of a hurricane rained down upon his West Indies island, he documented the horrors, and the world took notice.

"Put a pencil to his temple, connected it to his brain, he wrote his first refrain, a testament to his pain - Well, the word got around, 'hey, this kid is insane? lets take up a collection and send him to the mainland.'"


In other words, he got his own scholarship from hell when the community, astounded by his talent, financed his move to the states, without which he might not ever have set foot in the country. 

The passage that set him free, found here,  screams of Cosmic Horror with its references to a supernatural forces, as if the hurricane was a creature, and the mortal humans powerless below. Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft would be impressed. I am taking an expansive view of horror, for sure, but if you define horror is an unflinching stare down at the pain of being human, the ever-present spector of death with its "unrelenting scythe, pointed, and ready for the stroke" and when facing down this darkness, we are forced to look inward at the 'deformity of our lives' - well, then, I'm saying it qualifies. 


Here's just a brief glimpse:

"Good God! what horror and destruction. Its impossible for me to describe or you to form any idea of it. It seemed as if a total dissolution of nature was taking place. The roaring of the sea and wind, fiery meteors flying about it in the air, the prodigious glare of almost perpetual lightning, the crash of the falling houses, and the ear-piercing shrieks of the distressed, were sufficient to strike astonishment into Angels"

..and...

"Look around thee and shudder at the view. See desolation and ruin where’er thou turnest thine eye! See thy fellow-creatures pale and lifeless; their bodies mangled, their souls snatched into eternity, unexpecting. Alas! perhaps unprepared! Hark the bitter groans of distress. See sickness and infirmities exposed to the inclemencies of wind and water! See tender infancy pinched with hunger and hanging on the mothers knee for food! See the unhappy mothers anxiety. Her poverty denies relief, her breast heaves with pangs of maternal pity, her heart is bursting, the tears gush down her cheeks. Oh sights of woe! Oh distress unspeakable! My heart bleeds, but I have no power to solace! "



Alexander lived through plenty of horrors; abandoned by his dad, his mom died of the same sickness that afflicted both of them, but Alex survived then "moved in with his cousin, but his cousin committed suicide." One can see how he "imagined death so much it felt like a memory." 

"I wrote my way out of hell," he explains, as his pride swelled and inflated to greek tragedy proportion, proclaiming in a howl: "When my prayers to God were met with indifference, I picked up a pen, I wrote my own deliverance."

Well, Icarus flew too close to the sun, and when he tried to write his way out again with blunt honesty after caught in a sex scandal, the community wasn't ready to rejoice in the same manner. His opponents danced with glee "Never gonna be president now."

*I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the other elements that make the musical so special. 

Hamilton rewrites the narrative of our history to reflect the kind of country we live in today, with its inclusiveness and representation of minorities and people of color. It shows the founding fathers with all of their noble intentions, fatal flaws and foibles, delivered in a hip-hoppy music, with wit and wisdom. So often the lyrics cite actual, historical quotes mixed in with its colloquialism. It rewrites the narrative to include those who currently live within its unfinished symphony, and allows so many to feel part of our country who before only saw a bunch of white dudes. (and lets not forget, Woman in the sequel! 'Work'

Its delivery has reached an audience and taught our history in ways no other medium could. My daughter is in 6th grade and has President Washington's farewell speech memorized. She can describe the significance and unique precedence of transitions of power when he stepped down. These are concepts usually reserved for High School AP history. 

All of this is explained in numerous essays written with much more eloquence than I've managed here, but no time to rewrite. I'm off to play the Hamilton lottery looking for tickets to tomorrow's performance. There are a million things I haven't done, but just you wait, just you wait.

Nothing excites an obsessed man as much as a play about an obsessed man.



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