EXCLUSIVE: Compare Hamilton (2015) with Hamilton (1917): First Publication of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Lyrics

News   EXCLUSIVE: Compare Hamilton (2015) with Hamilton (1917): First Publication of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Lyrics
 
One of the biggest hits of the spring is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Off-Broadway musical, Hamilton, which is scheduled to move to Broadway this summer. But it will not be the first time a show of that title and subject has appeared on Broadway. Nearly a century ago dramatic actor George Arliss starred as the Founding Father in Hamilton, a play he co-wrote with Mary P. Hamlin.

The play opened Sept. 17, 1917 at the Knickerbocker Theatre and ran two months. It was adapted as the film "Alexander Hamilton" in 1931, with Arliss recreating the title role.

Hamlin had another reason to be interested in national politics. She was distantly related by marriage to Lincoln’s first vice president, Hannibal Hamlin.

Miranda did not base his musical on the Hamlin/Arliss play, but on "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow. Yet, it is interesting to compare differences and similarities separated by style, approach and 98 years of history.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and cast in the current <i>Hamilton</i>
Lin-Manuel Miranda and cast in the current Hamilton Photo by Joan Marcus

Similarities
Jefferson and Monroe, the primary writers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, respectively, are presented as villains--or, at any rate, as Hamilton’s antagonists--in both pieces.

The first half of Act II of Miranda’s musical tracks pretty closely with the action of Hamlin’s play, both of them dealing with the period in the 1790s when Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury, and trying to push through a bill for the newborn federal government to take over states’ debts and thereby put the United States on a firm financial footing—an effort Jefferson and Monroe try to undercut by entangling Hamilton in a sex scandal that eventually destroys his personal life, but not his career. Both pieces portray Hamilton as a man of compulsive honesty, to the point that he is willing to destroy himself to keep his honor.

Both pieces depict the catfight politics of the era just after the American Revolution—a picture that will surprise people who think today’s political discord and dysfunction are strictly modern phenomena.

Differences
Hamlin's play is all in prose; Miranda's is entirely in verse.

Miranda’s musical dramatizes three duels, including the climactic confrontation with Aaron Burr that ended Hamilton’s life. Hamlin’s play does not.

Miranda’s musical presents the whole panorama of Hamilton’s life, from his earliest days in Nieves, West Indies, through his immigration to New York, his rise to fame as Washington’s right-hand man, his military success in the Revolution, etc.
Hamlin’s play barely touches on the existence of African-Americans and slavery. The only black person to be seen is Hamilton’s butler, who speaks in a patois. The musical not only grapples directly with slavery, but all the major roles are played by actors of color. When Jefferson protests that Virginia shouldn’t have to help pay other states’ debts because its government is solvent, Hamilton zings back that Virginia is solvent only because its slave workers are unpaid.

George Arliss (right) with Doris Kenyon (center) and the cast of the 1931 film of the 1917 Broadway play <i>Hamilton</i>.
George Arliss (right) with Doris Kenyon (center) and the cast of the 1931 film of the 1917 Broadway play Hamilton.

Here is how Hamlin’s play handles the scene in which Jefferson and Monroe approach Hamilton with a compromise. They propose to support his plan to let the federal government control the new nation’s finances in return for his support of having the nation’s capital located in the South.

JEFFERSON
Citizen Hamilton, I have been credited with being a diplomatist.

HAMILTON
Your valued service, as minister to France, places that beyond dispute, sir.

JEFFERSON
And I find that, in settling arguments of all kinds, it is necessary to give and take.

HAMILTON
The best diplomatist, I presume, being the man who gives the least and takes the most.

JEFFERSON
In this instance, Citizen Monroe and myself are prepared to give a great deal, in order that the Southern States shall not be overlooked.

MONROE
Treated with contempt.

JEFFERSON
With regard to the Capital, I have a proposal to make. As we cannot agree on the selection of a city, why not build us a new city—clean and new and full of the ideals of Liberty and Fraternity. Why choose a city like Albany or New York, marred with the scars of the British tyrant—bristling with memories of our servitude?

HAMILTON
Certainly an original idea. A new city. On the Hudson!

MONROE
[Quickly and emphatically.] No, not on the Hudson.

JEFFERSON
On the Potomac, halfway between North and South!

[…] Suppose we pass your Bill in return for the Capital?

HAMILTON
[With an assumption of astonishment.] Why gentlemen, this is a surprising proposal. I fear I must have time to think it over.

MONROE
You’re a quick thinker when you like, Hamilton.

Excerpt from the play Hamilton © 1917 Mary P. Hamlin and George Arliss, published by Walter H, Baker & Co.


Here is how Miranda’s musical handles the same scene, in the lyrics to the song “The Room Where It Happened”:

BURR
CONGRESS IS FIGHTING OVER WHERE TO PUT THE CAPITAL--

The COMPANY screams in chaos.

BURR
IT ISN’T PRETTY.
THEN JEFFERSON APPROACHES WITH A DINNER AND INVITE.
AND MADISON RESPONDS WITH VIRGINIAN INSIGHT.

MADISON
MAYBE WE CAN SOLVE ONE PROBLEM WITH ANOTHER.
AND WIN A VICTORY FOR THE SOUTHERNERS, IN OTHER WORDS--

JEFFERSON
OH-HO!

MADISON
A QUID PRO QUO.

JEFFERSON
I SUPPOSE.

MADISON
WOULDN'T YOU LIKE TO WORK A LITTLE CLOSER TO HOME?

JEFFERSON
ACTUALLY, I WOULD.

MADISON
WELL, I PROPOSE THE POTOMAC

JEFFERSON
AND YOU'LL PROVIDE HIM HIS VOTES?

MADISON
WELL, WE’LL SEE HOW IT GOES.

JEFFERSON
LET'S GO.

BURR
NO!

COMPANY
-ONE ELSE WAS IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED.

BURR/COMPANY
THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED.
THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED…
NO ONE ELSE WAS IN
THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED.
THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED.
THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED.

BURR
MY GOD!

BURR/COMPANY
IN GOD WE TRUST.
BUT WE'LL NEVER REALLY KNOW WHAT GOT DISCUSSED.
CLICK BOOM THEN IT HAPPENED.

BURR
NO ONE ELSE WAS IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED.

COMPANY
ALEXANDER HAMILTON!

BURR
WHAT DID THEY SAY TO YOU TO GET YOU TO SELL NEW YORK CITY DOWN THE RIVER?

COMPANY
ALEXANDER HAMILTON!

BURR
DID WASHINGTON KNOW ABOUT THE DINNER?
WAS THERE PRESIDENTIAL PRESSURE TO DELIVER?

COMPANY
ALEXANDER HAMILTON!

BURR
OR DID YOU KNOW, EVEN THEN, IT DOESN'T MATTER WHERE YOU PUT THE US CAPITAL.

HAMILTON
CUZ WE'LL HAVE THE BANKS.
WE'RE IN THE SAME SPOT.

BURR
YOU GOT MORE THAN YOU GAVE.

HAMILTON
AND I WANTED WHAT I GOT.

Excerpt from "The Room Where It Happened," music and lyrics © Lin-Manuel Miranda. Used by permission of the author.

In the next scene from Hamlin’s play, Monroe, Jefferson and their allies complain about how much power Hamilton and Washington are accumulating, and resolve to do something about it.

Doris Kenyon and George Arliss in "Alexander Hamilton," the 1931 film of the 1917 Broadway play <i>Hamilton</i>.
Doris Kenyon and George Arliss in "Alexander Hamilton," the 1931 film of the 1917 Broadway play Hamilton.

TALLYRAND
Who desires to be king?

GILES
[Fiercely.] George Washington does!

MONROE
And Alexander Hamilton wants to be Prime Minister! Wants to be? He is Prime Minister this very minute. Prime Minister of America! Huh!

JEFFERSON
[Conciliatory:] I assure you Citizen Talleyrand, Citizen Giles and Citizen Monroe voice the sentiments of the great body of the American people. There is a growing unrest all over this land at the aristocratic tendencies of our President. There is bitter and righteous opposition to Alexander Hamilton’s efforts to centralize the government and assume the debts of the thirteen free and independent states. Such centralization of power would inevitably lead to monarchy. I stand on the platform of the Rights of Man—the rights of the individual—and the rights of each state to freedom. And I tell you, Citizen Talleyrand, that the gravest danger that threatens America today rests in the persons of those men who are striving to centralize the power of the United States; striving to establish a military dictatorship.

[…]

MONROE
Washington and Hamilton are working against the interests of the individual. They’re working against us.

JEFFERSON
Come, come, we mustn’t say that.

MONROE
Well, it’s true!

JEFFERSON
That may be, but—

GILES
Well, what you goin’ t’ do about it!

Excerpt from the play Hamilton © 1917 Mary P. Hamlin and George Arliss, published by Walter H, Baker & Co.

Here is how Miranda’s musical handles the same conflict, in the lyrics to the song “Washington Is On Your Side”:

MADISON
SO HE'S DOUBLED THE SIZE OF THE GOVERNMENT
WASN'T THE TROUBLE WITH MUCH OUR PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT SIZE?

BURR
LOOK IN HIS EYES!

JEFFERSON
SEE HOW HE LIES.

MADISON
FOLLOW THE SCENT OF HIS ENTERPRISE

JEFFERSON
CENTRALIZING NATIONAL CREDIT.
AND MAKING AMERICAN CREDIT COMPETITIVE

MADISON
IF WE DON'T STOP IT WE AID AND ABET IT

JEFFERSON
I HAVE TO RESIGN.

MADISON
SOMEBODY HAS TO STAND UP FOR THE SOUTH!

BURR
SOMEBODY HAS TO STAND UP TO HIS MOUTH!

JEFFERSON
IF THERE'S A FIRE YOU'RE TRYING TO DOUSE,

MADISON/JEFFERSON
YOU CAN’T PUT IT OUT FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE.

JEFFERSON
I'M IN THE CABINET I AM COMPLICIT IN
WATCHING HIM GRABBIN AT POWER AND KISS IT
IF WASHINGTON ISN’T GON' LISTEN TO DISCIPLINED DISSIDENTS THIS IS THE DIFFERENCE THIS KID IS OUT!

MAD/BURR/ENSEMBLE
OH!

MADISON/BURR
THIS IMMIGRANT ISN'T SOMEBODY WE CHOSE.

MAD/JEFF/ BURR/ENSEMBLE
OH!

MAD/JEFF/BURR/ENSEMBLE
THIS IMMIGRANT'S KEEPING US ALL ON OUR TOES.

MAD/JEFF/ BURR/ENSEMBLE
OH!

JEFFERSON/MADISON
LET'S SHOW THESE FEDERALISTS WHO THEY'RE UP AGAINST!

MAD/JEFF/BURR/ENSEMBLE
OH!

JEFFERSON /MADISON
SOUTHERN MOTHERFUCKIN’

BURR
UH, UH

JEFFERSON /MADISON/BURR
DEMOCRATIC- REPUBLICANS!

ENSEMBLE
OH!

JEFFERSON /MADISON/BURR
LET'S FOLLOW THE MONEY AND SEE WHERE IT GOES.

ENSEMBLE
OH!

JEFFERSON/MADISON/BURR
BECAUSE EVERY SECOND THE TREASURY GROWS.

ENSEMBLE
OH!

JEFFERSON /MADISON /BURR
IF WE FOLLOW THE MONEY AND SEE WHERE IT LEADS
GET IN THE WEEDS LOOK FOR THE SEEDS OF HAMILTON'S MISDEEDS

Excerpt from "Washington on Your Side," music and lyrics © Lin-Manuel Miranda. Used by permission of the author.

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