Toward a Historicism of Setting: Hamilton and American History
This essay analyses the historical setting of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical, using the play as a test case for a more general approach to historical drama. It suggests that Hamilton structures itself around a familiar, publicly available set of narratives of early American history, playing off the audience’s likely awareness of these narratives to deepen its emotional impact. Hamilton’s engagement with this familiar history activates the dissonance of the musical’s cross-racial casting and hip-hop aesthetic in order to produce what Miranda has called “a story about America then, told by America now,” simultaneously celebrating and critiquing the past. Based on this analysis of Hamilton, I argue for engaging with other historical plays through their settings, with careful attention to what a contemporary audience might have known or understood about the periods depicted.
Styrt, Philip Goldfarb (2018). "Toward a Historicism of Setting: Hamilton and American History." Modern Drama 61.1, 1-19.
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