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Sometimes, being a minister means working with some prickly people. They’re among the congregational leaders or visitors or–particularly tenderly–among the people I visit when they’re sick or sad. Not long ago, I was on my way to meeting with a member of the congregation when I passed under a stand of sweet gum trees (I think that’s what they are), whose seeds I love whenever I see them, and have never dared to draw. I went on to the meeting, and in our conversation, the person was both prickly and, to me, very beautiful: honest, caring, vulnerable. When I left, I picked up one of the fallen seeds, and I drew it that evening. In my private thoughts, it has this person’s name.

Two people find each other. Their lines match, like two halves of a broken ring. They’re married. Except that what goes on beneath the surface of a simple story makes it much more interesting, and the next song, “Satisfied,” remixes “Helpless” to show what else was going on while Eliza and Alexander were falling in love.

Erin Conley wrote such a good analysis of this song  (“A Deep Dive into the Hamilton Stunner “Satisfied”) and said so much of what I want to say, that instead of repeating her I’ll just encourage you to read her essay and add a few thoughts of my own. (Warning: Her essay will make you want to take a second and third job if it’s what will get you airfare to the nearest performance of Hamilton. I cannot wait to see this choreography.)

Angelica Schuyler’s rush of language, her aside to check if we’re keeping up when we barely are (“you see it, right?”), the rapid-fire rapping (try it–it’s almost as hard as the more celebrated “Guns and Ships”), the shifts between speech and song (oh that voice!), all show a mind at work that’s so nimble, everyone else seems to move in slow motion. Only Alexander Hamilton moves at her speed. No wonder she will never be satisfied. “In a world in which [her] only job is to marry rich,” what is such a brilliant person to do with herself?

Depending on her temperament, she turns bitter, wastes her talents on trivialities, kills herself, entertains herself by playing games at the expense of slower and more innocent people . . . characters like Hedda Gabler, Lady Macbeth, and the Marquise de Merteuil in Liaisons Dangereuses come to mind, not to mention real middle-class US women I’ve encountered whose lives could never quite flower within the constraints of nurse / teacher / secretary / mother they were permitted. But in the interpretation of Lin-Manuel Miranda, and her portrayer Renée Elise Goldberry, Angelica Schuyler is saved from any of these fates by her love for her sister. She keeps on flirting with her brother-in-law, but she means what she says in her toast–she wishes them only the best. As she’ll say of Eliza later, in a look back at “Satisfied,”

I will choose her happiness over mine every time. (“The Reynolds Pamphlet”)

Whether she and Hamilton ever consummated their mutual attraction (or even confessed it?) is unknown, either in the real-life version or the play. What’s evident is that there was a tension there, and Miranda imagines it drawn tight by Angelica’s loyalty to her sister. She could have had him, but she “sized him up so quickly,” as she did everything; and by the time the initial attraction had turned to love, Eliza was in love with him too. (And what Angelica feels for Alexander is love. Note she does not say, “If I told her that I loved him,” which might leave some ambiguity, but “If I tell her that I love him.”)

Angelica, in short, is a woman of honor. This makes her a fascinating foil for Hamilton: along with a quick wit, charming manner, love for Eliza, and fascination for political philosophy, their strict code of honor is something they have in common. But whereas his is based on pride, hers is based on love; his honor is about taking care of himself, while hers is about care for others. Honestly, Angelica, he doesn’t deserve you.

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