Since arriving on Disney Plus, Hamilton has been receiving a lot of praise, as well as some feedback that the musical obscures historical issues over slavery. Lin-Manuel Miranda has also already addressed the topic and has been open about the flaws in the production and its relationship to history. Now, he’s commented that ensuring historical accuracy was never his intention.
Miranda’s thoughts on the story have been touched on in the new Disney Plus behind-the-scenes special, which arrived this weekend. More specifically, he addresses the difficulty of including everything he wanted to in the musical, explaining as so:
“I get tweets every day from young people who say, ‘But what about this?’ Or, ‘It’s John Laurens’s birthday, why haven’t you said anything yet?’ And so, all the things I could not fit in the two and a half hours I have of your time, it’s exciting to see people discover that.”
The key point here is that Hamilton should not be viewed as a comprehensive historical document, but rather as one take on a complex life story and the Revolutionary War. Furthermore, the challenge of squeezing this material into a musical means that some details were removed, meaning that those who want to learn more have the opportunity to do so through their own research.
Much of Miranda’s source material was inspired by Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton, which runs to a not-inconsiderable 800 or so pages. Given that Miranda used this biography when developing the stage musical, it’s probably the best place to start for someone wanting to go beyond what we see in Hamilton. In addition, that people are debating Hamilton since it’s received a push from Disney Plus shows that the topics of the musical, and its approach to representation, remain timely.
For now, it’s unlikely that strong opinions on Hamilton will go away, but it’s to Miranda’s credit that he’s holding up his hands and acknowledging that people are free to draw their own conclusions from the material he presents. Throwing Hamilton into the trend for “cancel culture” doesn’t really help these debates though, with the ability to watch and interpret, or even fundamentally disagree with Miranda, all part of the production’s value.