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Parents, doesn’t this line capture perfectly what happens to you when you hold your child for the first time?: “There is so much more inside me now.”*

Alexander Hamilton sings it to his baby son, and since it immediately follows the line, “Pride is not the word I’m looking for,” it could be interpreted narrowly, as “There is so much more than pride inside me now,” but I both think it makes more sense, and like it better, interpreted more broadly.

As I got familiar with the musical, but didn’t yet really know who was singing what or what plot points were unfolding–the “folding laundry in the other room while it’s playing on the stereo” stage of acquaintance with the CD–I started to develop a mental list of things that have to happen, dramatically speaking. We have to know how he becomes the treasury secretary; we have to hear the war come to an end; we have to know why Hamilton and Burr duel; we have to know how duels work; we have to hear how he and Eliza fall in love. And somewhere in there, we need a duet between Burr and Hamilton. “Dear Theodosia” is it.

Oh, they sing together plenty of other times, but this is just the two of them, their voices twinned in close harmony and then unison, a matching verse for each, making it very different than “Aaron Burr, Sir” or, in Act II, “The Room Where It Happens.” The closest parallel will be “Your Obedient Servant,” when things go downhill in an exchange of increasingly angry verses. For the moment of (literal and figurative) harmony between them expressed in “Dear Theodosia,” Miranda chooses something purely personal they have in common: the birth of each one’s first child, the moment each becomes a father. We’re reminded that each grew up without his own father, and that they are both heroes and founders of this country, an act that is as personal as it is political.

You will come of age with our young nation
We’ll bleed and fight for you, we’ll make it right for you
If we lay a strong enough foundation
We’ll pass it on to you, we’ll give the world to you

It’s a gentle melody, on piano, strings, harp, and acoustic guitar. The tenderness of the song cements our affection for each of the characters, heightening our sense of what is at stake. We want them to survive, both of them! And to add a layer of heartbreak that isn’t stated in the play, both of these children will precede these fathers into death. So the two men will share the experience of that grief as well.

For now they share something gentle and beautiful: a surrendering of pride. Nothing does more than the first days of parenthood to make you feel like all your skill and expertise have left you totally unprepared. I am sure my wife and I were the bazillionth human beings to hold a child and utter the words, “Oh my god, we’re supposed to know how to keep her alive?” Hamilton has only a few moments of humility in the play, just enough to leaven his pride and arrogance, and this is one of them (most of the rest come in Act II). It is Burr who says to his child, “I’ll make a million mistakes,” a repeated theme for him and, notably, not for Hamilton. Yet Hamilton discovers his limits too, in words they share: “And I thought I was so smart.”

Their parts intertwine, sometimes echoing, sometimes together in harmony (sorry, formatting will work only on a desktop, if that):

Hamilton:                                                     Burr:

My father wasn’t around
.                                                            My father wasn’t around

I swear that
I’ll be around for you                           I’ll be around for you.

I’ll do whatever it takes
.                                                             I’ll make a million mistakes

I’ll make the world                                 I’ll make the world
safe and sound for you…                           safe and sound for you…

Then they end singing in unison. Just lovely. If only our love for our children dissolved all enmity between us.

 

 

 

 

*Maddy, am I continuing my streak? Is this one of your favorite lines too?

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