Here is part 2, continued from last week’s blog! Last week we took a look at Aaron Burr’s rise and now we are going to talk about his downfall. Heads up, we will be discussing “The World Was Wide Enough.” I know plenty of you are not going to like that because I know it makes a lot of you cry. So to be fair, next week I will do “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” because *that* is the song that makes me cry. Every. freaking. time.
But before we get there, let’s talk about what happens after “The Room Where It Happens.” Now if you will recall from last week, Burr has just made his decision that he is going to do whatever it takes to rival Hamilton’s success. In “Schuyler Defeated,” we learn that this means that Burr went as far as to change political platforms in order to take the senator seat from Philip Schuyler, Eliza’s father. Which of course, enrages Ham and he declares the end of the friendship. Ham goes on to fight with Jefferson and Madison, and by the time we get to “Washington On Your Side,” we’ve got three very angry Democratic Republicans that want Ham’s head on a silver platter.
“Washington On Your Side” is when Burr realizes that the best way to rival Hamilton’s political prowess is to team up with Jefferson and Madison in order to bring him down. I won’t get into every single other song that the trio are involved in, but essentially they end up digging up dirt on Hamilton and accuse him of embezzlement (which of course he wasn’t doing, but the accusation was enough to make him go nuts and ruin his won reputation). Some other stuff happens, Ham’s life falls apart, and he kind of bows out of the political game while he tries to glue his life back together. And with Ham out of the picture, Burr finally sees his opening to rise to the top.
In “The Election of 1800,” Burr decides to run for president since Hamilton is no longer in his way. Unfortunately, Jefferson and Madison have their own plans to put Jefferson in the White House. And of course, the election ends in a tie. The Federalists drag Hamilton out of the depths of his despair and ask him to choose between the candidates, and he ultimately ends up endorsing Jefferson since “Jefferson has beliefs, Burr has none.” And this is the absolute last straw for Burr and in “Your Obedient Servant” we see him reflecting over all the ways that Hamilton has “ruined” his life.
Which brings us to………..
“The World Was Wide Enough” is one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs in the entire show. If you aren’t familiar with Hamilton, I would recommend listening to “Ten Duel Commandments” first because it explains the rules of dueling, so by the time you get to “The World Was Wide Enough” you already know that’s going down.
This is the final showdown between Burr and Ham. The song is told from Burr’s point of view throughout, except for Ham’s last monologue which is what is going through his mind in his final moments. (This is my favorite monologue in the entire show.) Aaaaand then Burr shoots Ham, and yeah, you know the rest.
Shooting Alexander Hamilton was Aaron Burr’s ultimate downfall. But here’s the thing: the whole freaking musical long, Ham always says, “I am not throwing away my shot” and Burr says, “Wait for it” but in the end, BOTH OF THEM DID THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT THEY ALWAYS SAY. Hamilton throws away his shot by firing his pistol in the air instead and Burr doesn’t wait for it, he shoots Hamilton and kills him.
But the part after Hamilton’s final monologue is what really kills at me, because Burr screams “WAIT” when he realizes that Ham is aiming at the sky, but it’s too late. He’s already fired. And Burr knows from the second that he shoots Hamilton that his life is over too. He sings:
“Death doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners and the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
In every picture it paints
It paints me and all my mistakes
When Alexander aimed
At the sky
He may have been the first one to die
But I’m the one who paid for it
I survived, but I paid for it
Now I’m the villain in your history
I was too young and blind to see…
I should’ve known
I should’ve known
The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me
The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me…”
HE KNEW THAT BOTH THEIR LIVES WERE OVER THE SECOND HE FIRED THAT BULLET. And he feels so guilty about it. I’m not going to go too much into “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” because I’m saving that for next week, but everyone else except for Hamilton and Burr come out on stage and they’re all wearing their gold coats (well, except for Eliza but she isn’t dead yet) from the beginning of the play, signifying that they have died and they’re all in Heaven now. Hamilton isn’t wearing his gold coat because he’s been on stage this whole time, but during the opening song, “Alexander Hamilton,” he’s wearing his gold coat. BUT BURR NEVER GETS HIS GOLD COAT. He opens the show in his purple coat and closes it in his black coat, the one he is wearing when he kills Ham. BURR IS SO OVERCOME WITH HIS GUILT THAT HE NEVER GETS TO JOIN EVERYONE ELSE, EVEN IN DEATH HE IS STILL THE SOCIAL OUTCAST AND HE WILL NEVER OUTLIVE IT.
Even after his death we still paint Aaron Burr as the “villain in our history,” when all he wanted was to hang out with the cool kids and have a little time in the spotlight. But it was his own ambitions that ultimately led to his downfall.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why Aaron Burr is one of the most complicated villains to exist. (And he’s still my favorite.)
Wanna hear something really devastating? SOMEONE MADE A MASHUP OF “TEN DUEL COMMANDMENTS” AND “THE WORLD WAS WIDE ENOUGH”!!!!!!!!!!! If you aren’t familiar with the musical, it probably won’t mean much to you (it may just sound like noise actually), but I’m going to give you my interpretation. To me, it sounds like Burr knows what he is doing is wrong and he is remembering the events of “Ten Duel Commandments” in his head, but he’s too far in to do anything about it. But man, the part at the end… That haunts me.