Revolutions, Revelations and Angelica Schuyler

It’s hard to talk about Hamilton’s Angelica without thinking about Eponine, that other figure of unrequited love in a smash hit musical. But once you’ve noted that they both sing a song about the guy they don’t end up with, the similarities pretty much end. Eponine, for all her iconicness, is the prototypical waif. She sadly wanders the streets, dreaming of love from the guy who doesn’t love her back, before dying tragically in a futile attempt to help him.

Angelica is not having any of that nonsense. Her story isn’t so much one of unrequited love than one of regret. She chooses to step aside and introduce Alexander to Eliza, partly because she overthinks the situation and judges things wrong, and partly because she values her sister’s happiness over her own. Her song is one of agency, of decision making and complex emotions, rather than just wistful sadness.

Even the song titles show how different they are. Eponine is on her own, lamenting her helplessness. Angelica has created this situation herself, because of ambition and overthinking, because she can never be satisfied.

And, of course, there’s Angelica’s moment in The Reynolds Pamphlet: “I’m not here for you.” Yes, Eliza has a connection to Alexander, and yes, he’s important to her, but her priority is Eliza. She’s a Schuyler sister first and always.

But although Angelica is a fantastic reinvention of the Eponine trope, is this the best thing that Hamilton could have done with her character? The musical clearly presents Angelica as a strongminded badass with political opinions and a lot to say, but (understandably) her actions in the musical are mostly focussed around Alexander. But Angelica was also close to Jefferson and was a fabulous urbane influencer for most of her life. Like she hopes in The Schuyler Sisters, she befriended Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette while in France, and even introduced Jefferson to the Federalist Papers. She was so politically-minded that she took the dangerous journey back to the US in 1789 to see Washington’s inauguration, and she took many political actions herself, including helping victims of the French Revolution, and writing to Washington for help when Lafayette was sent to an Austrian prison. Her letters to and from various revolutionary leaders are important documents about the period.

She was also something of a rebel, eloping with John Church in 1777 because her father didn’t approve of the marriage. This isn’t all to say that she was some modern-day feminist, misplanted in time, not least because there’s evidence that her husband was a slave-owner himself. But she is a fascinating figure, with a much bigger role to play in the story of the founding of America than as the sister in love with Alexander Hamilton.

To be honest, I kind of want a musical about her. A Hamilton sequel, maybe? Please, Lin-Manuel Miranda?

11 comments on “Revolutions, Revelations and Angelica Schuyler

  • Elizabeth Wein , Direct link to comment

    I have shed tears over the amazingness of Eliza Hamilton’s life’s work which turns up in one song as a kind of epilogue at the end of Hamilton. What we REALLY need is a musical about the Schuyler Sisters!

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      YES! A Hamilton companion musical that opens with The Schuyler Sisters and runs on from there.

  • Katie , Direct link to comment

    Yes, yes, yes!! I would love a musical just about the Schuyler sisters! I was bummed there wasn’t more of them in the musical, when they had so much potential to be more robust characters!

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      I knew nothing about them before I heard the soundtrack, and the immediately searched for a book on them. Even that had no luck, but I’m hoping some academic is working frantically on one now!

  • Courtney , Direct link to comment

    Man I want to see Hamilton SO BAD. Angelica sounds like my kind of lady!

    I really hope you are planning on doing a post for what Emma Watson does with Belle! I already read the new B&B movie noveliization and without giving anything away, I think we are in for a treat!

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      I have tickets for London for 2018, and I don’t know how I’m going to wait that long!

      I feel like I’m a bit of an odd one out with Beauty and the Beast, because I’m not sure I’m going to like this liveaction version. I loved the Cinderella live action, but this feels a bit too much of a shot by shot recreation. I may wait until it comes on Netflix. 🙂

  • LynMars , Direct link to comment

    Peggy Schuyler was also a fairly amazing woman, and she’s relegated to a tertiary, barely-there character, the actress used again as Maria Reynolds in Act 2 as Peggy has no role…but the sisters were hardly background figures in their lives. And we don’t get to see either of the Theodosias. The play’s focus is so tight on Hamilton and Burr many of the other characters–even really important ones–are given short shrift and revolve around their interactions with those two.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      I didn’t know that about Peggy! I have to admit, Hamilton has taught me more about that period of American history than I ever knew before (thanks, British curriculum), so I’m very much a newbie to learning about the actual people and events behind the musical. So it’s definitely time for me to look up more about Peggy!

  • Sean C. , Direct link to comment

    She sadly wanders the streets, dreaming of love from the guy who doesn’t love her back, before dying tragically in a futile attempt to help him.

    Minor point, but her death in the musical isn’t futile; she accomplished the thing she set out to do, to deliver the message, which ultimately saves Marius’ life.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      That’s an excellent point! Clearly it’s been too long since I last saw Les Mis.

What do you think?

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