Burr’s very first line in real time (as opposed to narrating the story after the fact) constitutes one of the best and also most retrospectively hilarious examples I’ve ever seen of a person’s entire character summed up in one line:

HAMILTON:
Pardon me, are you Aaron Burr, sir?

BURR:
That depends, who's asking?

The man won’t even commit to his own name without testing first to see how it will be received: the ultimate weathervane.

That scene and the introduction of the revolutionaries which follows is a great example of introducing people in a brief lyric that sums up the essentials of their character, which is often a good thing to do in a story with a large cast. You can give them more complexity later. Right now, the audience just needs to remember who they are and get a general sense of what they’re about.

Other than Hamilton himself, who got a lengthy introductory song, every else’s intros in the first number went by very quickly and without identifying them by name; they only become meaningful in retrospect, when you find out that the man who said, “I trusted him” was George Washington.

The doubling of Act I/Act II characters, which I didn’t even notice on my first listen until Jefferson started rapping and I suddenly realized that it was the same guy as Lafayette, makes their one-line intro work for both characters. Mulligan/Madison and Lafayette/Jefferson’s “We fought with him” is a play on double meanings: they fought beside Hamilton in Act I and against him in Act II. That must be so heartbreaking onstage to actually see the band of brothers become enemies. Not to mention Laurens/Philip’s “I died for him.” (If I was LMM, I would have made more of Laurens’ death. Maybe he does more with it onstage?)

The revolutionaries announce themselves 80s rap style, which was an era with a lot of songs that summed up as “I’m So-And-So, and I’m super awesome!” (Also lots of political songs, but Miranda seems to be specifically parodying the “Yo, I’m badass and get all the chicks” subgenre.) What’s funnier in retrospect is that Laurens and Lafayette evolve their own styles after that, but Mulligan stays in that style all the way through. When he makes his surprise re-entrance later, it’s with this:

Hercules Mulligan, I need no introduction!
You knock me down, I get the fuck back up again!

His lyrics are way simpler and more straightforward than those of other characters at that point in the play. There’s no alliteration, minimal internal rhyming, and the rhyming isn’t particularly clever: Mulligan/introduction/again is an unimpressive rhyme compared to, say, destitute/restitution or any of the endlessly inventive and funny “Burr, sir” rhymes (of which my personal favorite is “You punched the bursar?”) The vocabulary is very simple. The only exception is “covenant,” but most characters in the play use a lot of very sophisticated vocabulary, not just one medium-difficult word. Compare to a completely typical Hamilton line a few songs back, in this case from Washington: We rendezvous with Rochambeau/Consolidate their gifts. Rhythmically, Mulligan’s delivery lacks the jaw-dropping speed of Lafayette (which indicates both Lafayette’s quicksilver intelligence and his fighting style that leaves the enemy reeling.)

In short, Mulligan’s musical and lyrical style is basic, but in the literal rather than insulting sense— so basic that it wraps around and becomes totally awesome. In case it’s not clear, I love him. He’s one of my favorite characters in the entire play. Also a great example of making a huge impression in a smallish role. (Though it does match oddly with his actual role in the Revolution, which is being the undercover man. Mulligan’s entire character is about “what you see is what you get,” which is the opposite of what you want in a spy. Since we never actually see or get any musical/lyrical indication that Mulligan can be anything but HERCULES MULLIGAN, it gives the impression that the Redcoats were really not paying attention.)

Mulligan’s style strikes me as both in-character and a musical joke about his type of rap and the era it came from. (Not all ‘80s rap was like that, of course, but the joke is about the part that was.) So many “I’m cool! You’re a fool!” songs. SO MANY. Blasting from boom-boxes. Blaring from car radios with the windows rolled down. Teenagers performing absolutely terrible songs they wrote themselves, complete with hand gestures that are now only used in parodies. If you were there, you remember. And also, you probably had horrific hair.

Back to the character intros! All the revolutionaries are in “Yo, I’m So-and-So and here’s why I’m cool” mode, but they also say specific things which imply a lot about themselves in a very few words:

Laurens:
Those redcoats don’t want it with me!
‘Cuz I will pop-chick-a-pop those cops till I’m free.

Laurens, the abolitionist, talks about freedom. He also mentions fighting cops, which suggests political radicalism. (Uh. I assume that means “fighting.”) It’s also a very dangerous thing to do, especially for a black man. So it foreshadows his death, most likely by gunfire. (So does “Fools who shoot their mouths off wind up dead.”)

Lafayette:
Ah oui, oui, mon ami, je m'appelle Lafayette.

Key facts about Lafayette: 1) He’s French. (There may be a nod to Les Miserables’ Les Amis in the “mon ami”):

Lafayette:
The Lancelot of the revolutionary set.

2) He’s effortlessly and genuinely the coolest person in the room, even when he hasn’t quite got the hang of English, and also a great warrior: Lancelot, the larger-than-life hero:

And then we have Hercules Mulligan:

Braaaah! Braaaah! I am Hercules Mulligan!
Up in it, lovin’ it!

Yep. That’s HERCULES MULLIGAN! Say no more.

And then a reiteration of Burr and Hamilton’s philosophies:

Hamilton:
If you stand for nothing, Burr,
what’ll you fall for?

One of the things that makes this musical endlessly re-listenable is how packed almost every line is.

First, the line is a play on a proverb, “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” When I looked it up, I found that it’s of uncertain lineage… but has been attributed to the historic Hamilton. (If there is one way that Alexander Hamilton is like Yogi Berra, it’s that if some phrase of an unknown origin sounds like something he might have said, it’s liable to be attributed to him.)

Burr may stand for nothing, but Hamilton falls in the duel. But Burr falls too: standing for nothing is the basis for his clash with Hamilton, which destroys Burr too.

There’s also two interesting plays on phrases. “Stand for nothing” is reminiscent of “stop at nothing:” ruthless, especially in pursuit of a goal. That certainly applies to both men, and is exactly what leads to their mutual destruction.

“Fall for” can mean “be fooled,” as in the proverb. The direct cause of the duel was Burr’s belief that Hamilton was saying unspecified bad things about him. It’s possible that someone either lied to Burr about that, or it was true but someone deliberately informed him in the hope of engineering some sort of fight that would damage or destroy one or both men, either out of personal enmity or hope of political gain. I don’t recall this being implied in the play, but historically, I think it was a possibility. Those guys both had plenty of rivals and personal enemies apart from each other, so it’s possible.

If someone did lie to or manipulate him, Burr fell for it. The historic Hamilton certainly seemed baffled about what the hell Burr thought Hamilton was saying about him, and he normally didn’t hold back on his opinions. If he was saying insulting stuff, it would have been more in-character for him to admit it and pile on. I could imagine him saying something along the lines of, “I said a dead horse would make a better vice-President, because it’s true. That was in comparison to our current VP, who is a live jackass.” Instead, he basically said, “I don’t know what the fuck you think I’m saying about you, so I can’t repeat the details of your own fevered imagination. You’ve really lost it this time, Burr. Pistols at dawn.”

More commonly, “fall for” means “to love.” So who or what does Burr truly love? His mistress, Theodosia? His daughter, not yet conceived, who will motivate him to go ahead and take that final shot? Power, which drives the rivalry that takes both men down?

All that, in just ten words.
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

From: [personal profile] rydra_wong


(If I was LMM, I would have made more of Laurens’ death. Maybe he does more with it onstage?)

You've been linked to the Laurens's Death Bit, right?

http://linmanuel.tumblr.com/post/129795571060/tumblrico-i-made-this-for-you-today-its-the

ETA: there's illicit audio of this from the run at the Public floating around online, though I don't have a link to hand, and it is wrenching.
Edited Date: 2016-02-10 08:00 pm (UTC)

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From: [personal profile] recessional


...to be fair, I won't commit to confirming my own name to a stranger without confirming for context either, and I'm not sure most people I know would describe me as a weathervane. Just someone who wants to know whether or not she should be prepared to block your attack after you know who she is, or whether she can remain relaxed. >.>

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rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

From: [personal profile] rydra_wong


His lyrics are way simpler and more straightforward than those of other characters at that point in the play. There’s no alliteration, minimal internal rhyming, and the rhyming isn’t particularly clever

I dunno, I'd argue that "Lock up your daughters and horses/of course it's/hard to have intercourse/over four sets of corsets" is much more intricate than anything the other two have managed up to that point.
kore: (Hamilton - the Schuyler sisters)

From: [personal profile] kore


In those little thumbnail sketches Miranda says Mulligan is "Busta Rhymes meets Donald O’Connor," which really tickled me.

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kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


"Are you X?"/"Who wants to know?" is a pretty common street response, IMHO -- I think Burr tends to be less full-throttle than Hamilton in the musical because he's wary. I think, like most of Miranda's lyrics, it's serving a lot of different characterization purposes -- it shows you Burr's interest in social positioning, yeah (which Hamilton also shares) and his tendency to hold back, but it's also about his constant caution which has been caused by his extreme loss, which in the musical is really motivating him during the duel. A black man openly identifying himself to a stranger on the street can sometimes be dangerous, even if his questioner isn't a cop, and I think Miranda's playing with that too.

One thing I don't think I've seen mentioned anywhere in the press, which kind of amazes me, is how much the musical owes to Amadeus -- both stories are told about a doomed exuberant genius who can't play by the rules, by someone who isn't just jealous but plans their downfall and also directly narrates the entire story to the audience in a post-historical frame. It's a great device because it really builds up trust in the narrator -- "See how honest I am, I hated this guy, and in fact I pretty much killed him, because I envied his natural talents! which I will now describe in glowing terms." Fitzgerald does the same thing in the Great Gatsby when that narrator tells you how much he originally couldn't stand Gatsby.

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From: [personal profile] naomikritzer


I was also totally reminded of Amadeus.

Though the thing is that Hamilton is successful because of his work ethic, something Burr acknowledges in Non-Stop. (It doesn't make him any less annoying, mind you.)

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brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)

From: [personal profile] brainwane

80s rap


Sorry I don't have time to find the exact link, but I know in the hamiltunes community someone's linked to the 60 Minutes piece about Hamilton. In it, Miranda makes the exact same point as you, about the other 3 revolutionaries doing slow 80s rap of the type teens wrote as their first rap. Then, he says, Alex comes in, and it's like he's from the future.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)

From: [personal profile] rmc28


"Fools who shoot their mouths off wind up dead"

[in come the three 80s rappers "what time is it? SHOWTIME"]

"Like I said ..." sings Burr, which just cracks me up every time, with its contrast of ultra-cautious Burr and three four very incautious revolutionaries ...



kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


The 'funny' thing is while Laurens died at twenty-eight and Hamilton forty-nine, Mulligan lived to be eighty and Lafayette seventy-something!

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From: [personal profile] dhampyresa


OKAY SO I HAVE OPINIONS ABOUT LAFAYETTE'S INTRODUCTION

As you know Rachel, I am French. It's super interesting to me that Lafayette calls the King "tu" (to the King, "casse-toi"). Typically, kings are adressed in the formal plural ("vous"). It's super rude to call someone "tu" when yoou should be calling them "vous" -- it implies a familiarity/closeness you don't have. So either Lafayette is that close to the king or he's being very rude, changing the line from "get out" to "fuck off".

(I am also breton, with heavily colours my perception of Arthuriana -- the Lancelot I grew up with is more a massive dweeb than a larger-than-life hero, so the comparaison with Lafayette falls flat.)

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nestra: Lyrics from the Sondheim show "Company" (Company)

From: [personal profile] nestra


I need to do something in my life that requires walk-on music, so I can enter to the strains of "HERCULES MULLIGAN!!!!"
kore: (Hamilton - the Schuyler sisters)

From: [personal profile] kore


Did you see the gifset on Tumblr that had General Organa (FUCK yeah) with the "Here Comes the General" text on it? I'm sure there are lots by now, but when I first saw one I just about screamed like a Beatles fan.

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From: [personal profile] nestra


Also, I suspect there's an essay in how Burr functions as the narrator through a large part of the show, in the same way as the Narrator in Into the Woods.

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movingfinger: (Default)

From: [personal profile] movingfinger


Hey, not going in to read all 76 comments just now, so please forgive me if you have already read this. I don't want to forget to pass you this reference.

http://storyoftheweek.loa.org/2016/02/the-urgent-necessity.html

Library of America's post today is about Hamilton-Adams-Washington drama. (there's a feed for this on DW if you are interested)
dafna: (Default)

From: [personal profile] dafna


Sorry, trying not to jump into too many threads a month later, but in addition to the Narrator in "Into the Woods" and Salieri in "Amadeus", the narrator-as-adversary precedents that Miranda himself specifically has mentioned for Burr are Judas in "Jesus Christ Superstar" and Che in "Evita."

From: [identity profile] ravens-shadow.livejournal.com


I wonder if that line, "What'll you fall for?" could also be Hamilton asking what Burr thinks is worth dying for. You've AHam and Co. talking about big ideas and revolutions, in that 'I'll die for freedom!' kind of way, but Burr holds his cards so close to the vest, they could be questioning if there's anything worth bringing up the same level of commitment.

As for Hercules Mulligan, my thinking was the very basic and straight-forward rap and rhyme style was itself the cover he was under. The redcoats hear him and think he's just this guy out for a beer and a laugh and lower their guard around him.

(Don't mind me over here in the corner, just reading the Hamilton posts and thinking too much. I really enjoy "Aaron Burr, sir.")

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


I agree, that line is also "What's worth dying for?" Burr did risk his life in battle. But for the cause, or to advance himself? But again, there's some brothers under the skin stuff going on there. Hamilton does believe in the cause, but he also really, really wants to advance himself. He isn't simply willing to die for the cause (that's Laurens), he wants to achieve glory on the battlefield.

I wonder if in the stage play, we ever get a glimpse beneath Mulligan's cover? Because yeah, it should just be a cover. But just going by the CD, that's also how he is in private with his buddies.

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From: [identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com


I see people have already linked you to the "secret" Laurens's death scene and the Genius annotations, so I will just say I love this post! It's so impressive how LMM manages to convey so much information not just by what characters say but by how they say it, the speed and complexity of their rhymes.

And I love the double meanings of the Intros in "Alexander Hamilton". It took me a long time to catch on to how the doubled roles work there, but it's so fantastic once you notice it.


From: [identity profile] naomikritzer.livejournal.com


I was curious enough to look up Hercules Mulligan on Wikipedia at one point. From their "Intel in the Revolution" article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligence_in_the_American_Revolutionary_War#Hercules_Mulligan :

"Besides being an American agent, Mulligan also was a British counterintelligence failure. Before he went underground as an agent, he had been an active member of the Sons of Liberty and the New York Committees of Correspondence and Observation, local Patriot intelligence groups. Mulligan had participated in acts of rebellion, and his name had appeared on Patriot broadsides distributed in New York as late as 1776. But every time he fell under suspicion, the popular Irishman used his gift of "blarney" to talk his way out of it. The British evidently never learned that Alexander Hamilton, Washington's aide-de-camp, had lived in the Mulligan home while attending King's College, and had recruited Mulligan and possibly Mulligan's brother, a banker and merchant who handled British accounts, for espionage. Mulligan was assisted by his slave, Cato, who performed dangerous assignments as a courier."

So, in fact: the British were REALLY DUMB not to figure out that he was spying on them.

Wikipedia also has an entry on Cato: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cato_(spy)
(who is not in the musical, I don't think.)

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


No, it seems like the Mulligan of the musical is essentially a consolidated Mulligan/Cato. And yeah, great "intelligence" work, Redcoats! (Or maybe the blarney really was that good.)

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From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com


At only four years younger than me, LMM almost certainly heard the "Sun City" album, and there's a line in one of the tracks--YouTube tells me it's Let Me See Your ID--where Gil Scott-Heron uses the line, "my grandmother told me that if you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything." The line makes me think of that, too.
lokifan: black Converse against a black background (Default)

From: [personal profile] lokifan


Love this post!

To be fair, Mulligan's got "lock up your daughters and horses/of course it's hard to have intercourse/over four sets of corsets" which is awesome polysyllabic rhyme. But generally he's a lot simpler, yeah. LOL @ your point that it makes the British look kinda stupid :D

He also mentions fighting cops, which suggests political radicalism. (Uh. I assume that means “fighting.”) It’s also a very dangerous thing to do, especially for a black man. So it foreshadows his death, most likely by gunfire.

*nodnod* It's the sound of gunfire - pop-chicka-a-pop - so it's not just fighting but shooting cops.

"Fall for" in the sense of love never occurred to me! And omg, yes, that's perfect! Esp considering "this man will not make an orphan of my daughter!"
.

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