All right, as promised, here is “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” I may or may not be crying as I type this. For most people, “It’s Quiet Uptown” or “The World Was Wide Enough” gets them. For me, it’s this one. And why?
BECAUSE EVERYONE EXCEPT ELIZA IS DEAD.
ELIZA IS THE ONLY ONE LEFT.
EVERYONE ELSE HAS DIED AT THIS POINT.
The year is 1854 and Eliza Hamilton is 97 years old. The duel took place 50 years ago and everyone else who was around during the events of the play is dead. Her husband, her friends, her sisters, everyone. All dead. So the responsibility of making sure Hamilton’s legacy lives on falls on Eliza.
(Check out the lyrics here, by the way.) Oh my gosh where do I even start. Well to begin, let’s start off with the fact that Eliza has to put herself back in the narrative. This is the third time she mentions being part of the “narrative,” referring to Hamilton’s legacy. The first time is in “That Would Be Enough” when he’s busy with the war and she asks to be part of the narrative. The second is during “Burn” after the truth about Ham’s affair surfaces when she sets his letters on fire and says that she’s erasing herself from the narrative. And then here we have the third time she says it, having realized that if she doesn’t put herself back in the narrative, then everything that Ham ever did will be forgotten.
In other words, even after he left her behind to advance his station during the war, ignored her pleas to spend time with her so he could run the government, flirted with her sister, cheated on her and told everyone about it, got their oldest son killed, and then recklessly engaged in a duel which resulted in his death and left her a penniless widow with seven children to care for, Eliza still sticks by Ham through everything and continues to preserve his legacy for another FIFTY years after his murder. FIFTY. She never remarried, she just spent all that time preserving his legacy and working for the common good because she knows that’s what he would have done if he had more time. WOW. Eliza is the epitome of “Best of Wives, Best of Women.”
Seriously though why don’t we learn about Eliza Hamilton in school? She’s a really awesome historical figure. And the orphanage she opened is actually still in service today, though it is called Graham Windham today. They’ve actually gotten a lot of recognition and donations as a result of Hamilton and I just think that’s super cool.
Most people that cry at this song usually burst into tears around the part where they start singing about the orphanage, but I actually start ugly crying quite a bit earlier in the song. It’s always the part where Eliza sings about relying on Angelica and how when she’s still alive they both tell Ham’s story but then, “she is buried in Trinity Church near you. When I needed her most she was right on time.” Half of the sadness is because the thought of Eliza and Angelica being parted really hurts me since they were so close, but also because of this note that Lin-Manuel Miranda made in The Revolution about the line:
“This fact kills me. It’s the line that made me cry the hardest in writing of it– Angelica, near Alexander but not with him, for eternity” (281).
And it’s true!!! If you go visit Hamilton’s grave in Trinity Church, Angelica is nearby, but just out of reach. (Her grave is behind a fenced off area near Hamilton’s tomb.) AND THIS IS HOW THEIR RELATIONSHIP IS FOR THE ENTIRE SHOW! Angelica and Ham always have this intense sexual tension and chemistry but nothing ever comes out of it (that we actually see anyway) but she is always just off to the side instead of beside of him and because as much as she was in love with Ham, she loved Eliza more. 😥 And now I’m crying again and I’m going to cut it off there.
This song always hits me so hard…