Beyond history, ‘Hamilton’ offers lesson in dangers of ambition

By Raho Faraha

San Jose, CA

You have married an Icarus,” sings Phillipa Soo broken-heartedly in the hit Broadway musical ‘Hamilton.’ Soo plays Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, who is devastated after finding out her husband had an affair with another woman. She continues:  “He has flown too close to the sun.”

This show is known for using an unconventional medium—musical theater—to teach history, and also for exclusively casting people of color to play America’s white founding fathers. But ‘Hamilton’ is also a lesson on the danger of ambition mixed with arrogance.

In the musical, Hamilton is portrayed as a highly-intelligent, headstrong, and ambitious character at the forefront of America’s birth. His ambition was fueled by a need to escape his penniless past in the Caribbean. To join New England’s elite faction, Hamilton becomes a major general in the Revolutionary War and marries Eliza Schuyler, the daughter of a decorated war hero. Over the course of his life, his drive turns him into a power-hungry politician who becomes Secretary of the Treasury. But he still wants more.

His arrogant and overly sensitive nature stem from a place of immense insecurity. But ambition can only hide deep-seated insecurities for so long. 

Icarus fell from grace when he ignored his father’s warnings, while Hamilton fell from grace when he published the Reynolds Pamphlet, needlessly exposing the intricate details of his affair and ensuing extortion. Both Icarus and Hamilton allowed their ambition to get the better of them. Ambition can be an asset, but these stories should serve as a warning: Don’t fly too close to the sun.

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