"Better a fallen rocket than never a burst of light."
~ Tom Stoppard, The Invention of Love

Friday, December 25, 2015

Favorite Characters: Angelica Shuyler (Hamilton)

I’ve raved about her in other Hamilton posts long enough; it’s time to give my girl Angelica a write-up of her own.  Angelica Schuyler, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  (Some Angelica-related spoilers.)

I’ve already talked, multiple times, about the wonderful piece of music that is “Satisfied,” but it bears repeating.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a sympathetic portrayal of a woman deciding to marry for money rather than love.  It isn’t what she wants to do; she wants Hamilton, in no uncertain terms, but she understands that it’s what she needs to do.  While there are other factors involved – concerns that Hamilton is hoping to “elevate his status” by courting her, the clear understanding that Eliza is attracted to him as well – she knows that, despite what she may want, her duty to her family forbids it.  As the oldest daughter, it falls to her to make the advantageous match.  She finds weds a wealthy but unstimulating man, ensuring the family’s future, so that Eliza can do what she couldn’t and marry for love. 

I mean, that’s just gorgeous, and it’s crazy, because everything stories have ever taught us about love and marriage tell us that it shouldn’t be.  They gear us up to believe that Angelica is being selfish, shallow, a gold-digger, but in reality, it’s so self-denying.  What makes it even better is the extent to which she’s doing it for Eliza’s sake.  The love between these two sisters is absolutely beautiful; the most unchangeable fact about Angelica is that she’ll do anything for Eliza.  During the whole Reynolds Pamphlet affair, even though she still cares deeply for Hamilton, she doesn’t even think twice about siding with Eliza over him.

Apart from the way Angelica deals with her mutual attraction to Hamilton and that whole situation, I also like how she’s attracted to him.  In “The Schuyler Sisters,” when the three young ladies head into the city, Angelica tells Eliza she’s “lookin’ for a mind at work,” and that’s what she finds in Hamilton.  Her first description of him is “intelligent eyes in a hunger-pang frame,” and her chief complaint about her eventual husband is that “he is not a lot of fun, but there’s no one who can match [Hamilton] for turn of phrase.”  With Hamilton, she’s finally able “to match wits with someone at [her] level.”  She loves him for his mind, his conversation, and his ideals.  Don’t get me wrong.  There’s strong physical attraction there, too – she notes that, when she first sees Hamilton, he sets “every part aflame,” – and I like that.  I love that this 18th-century woman is cerebral and physical, passionate and practical. 

What else?  She’s witty, with a winking sense of humor and a slyness that reminds me the tiniest bit of Beatrice from Much Ado about Nothing.  She shuts down men who talk down to and objectify her.  She voraciously reads – and critiques – revolutionary publications and ponders what place women will have in this brave new world the men are agitating for.  After the Revolution, when Hamilton joins Washington’s cabinet, she takes an avid interest in politics and gives him her opinions on how to work with the Democratic-Republicans instead of just clashing with them.  She has an earnestly sentimental side, asking Hamilton if, in a letter, he intentionally wrote, “My dearest, Angelica,” instead of, “My dearest Angelica.”

Basically?  She’s Angelica Shuyler.  She’s hardcore amazing.  Deal with it.

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