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  • Writer's pictureRebekah Olson

Hamilton the Musical: Revolutionary English

Exploring creative English through the poetic raps of the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton


Introduction

Learning a language is not just about mastering grammar and vocabulary; it's about embracing nuances and unleashing your creativity through the use of metaphors, wordplay, and turns of phrase.


One fun way to enhance your English skills, even at an advanced level, is by delving into the realm of rap, poems, and song lyrics.


Music can serve as a captivating tool for discovering the artistry of language

Let's explore how the Broadway musical "Hamilton" helps us do just that.




Metaphor

What: a tool for painting vivid pictures and conveying complex ideas through comparison


Identifiers: like, as


Hamilton's lyrics are replete with metaphors that paint vivid pictures in the listener's mind


Line: "I'm just like my country, I'm young, scrappy, and hungry"

Song: My Shot


Metaphor: the comparison of Alexander Hamilton's determination to the spirit of a young, ambitious nation




Double-entendre

What: a phrase with two possible interpretations, one innocent and straightforward, the other more suggestive and clever


Identifiers: phrases with dual meanings


In Hamilton, double-entendre is cleverly woven into the lyrics, highlighting the duality of politics and poetry.


Line: "I'm takin' this horse by the reins, makin' Redcoats redder with bloodstains"

Song: Guns and Ships


Double-entendre: "to take the horse by the reins" is an expression meaning to take control of a situation, here it also means to literally take a horse by the reins in battle





Maxim

What: a general truth, fundamental principle, or rule of conduct, a proverbial saying

Identifiers: a lesson to be learned


Throughout the lyrics of Hamilton, maxims and proverbs are used to advise the audience alongside the show's characters.


Line: "Talk less, smile more"

Song: "Aaron Burr, Sir"


Maxim: encourages restraint and diplomacy, reminding us of the power of nonverbal cues




Alliteration

What: the repetition of sounds, adding a lyrical quality to language


Identifiers: repeated letters, repeated diphthongs, rhyming


The songs of Hamilton cleverly utilize alliteration to enhance the musicality of the lyrics.


Line: "A civics lesson from a slaver, hey neighbor, your debts are paid 'cause you don't pay for labor"

Song: Cabinet Battle #1


Alliteration 1: repeated L in lesson, slaver, labor

Alliteration 2: long A sound in slaver, neighbor, paid, pay

Alliteration 3: repeated dual consonant sounds D --> P in Debts are Paid, Don't Pay"




Rhyme

What: a popular literary device in song, rap, and poetry adding melody to the words


Identifiers: repeated final sounds, sounds at the end of words


In Hamilton, rhymes are skillfully incorporated to enhance the lyrical flow.


Line: "Started workin', clerkin' for his late mother's landlord, tradin' sugar cane and rum and all the things he can't afford"

Song: Alexander Hamilton


Rhyme 1: repeated -kin ending: workin', clerkin'

Rhyme 2: repeated -ord ending: landlord, afford




Wordplay

What: a fun way to engage with language, employing clever, playful manipulations of words


Identifiers: expressions, silliness, jokes


In Hamilton, wordplay is cleverly woven into the lyrics, making them memorable and entertaining.


Line: "I'm a trust fund, baby, you can trust me!"

Song: Aaron Burr, Sir


Wordplay: the "trust" in "trust fund" has nothing to do with loyalty but rather the financial instrument, and people with trust funds, i.e., rich people, are often not considered trustworthy at all




Turn of Phrase

What: a creative way to express an idea using words in a way that deviates from the expected or conventional usage


Identifiers: slightly changed versions of phrases you already know, irony, humor


The show, Hamilton, uses turns of phrases to create fresh, memorable expressions that have already become part of the English-speaking world.


Line: "I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love"

Song: You'll Be Back


Turn of Phrase: the concept of showing affection or devotion, "remind you of my love" humorously exaggerated; instead of traditional gestures of love, such as flowers or love letters, King George III suggests sending a military battalion to emphasize his love and dominance




Conclusion

Exploring rap, poems, and song lyrics, such as those found in the Broadway musical, Hamilton, is a fantastic way to dive into the depths of creative English.


Metaphors, double-entendre, maxims, alliteration, rhyme, wordplay, and turns of phrase are just a few of the literary devices that can be uncovered through these forms of expression.


By engaging with the artistry of language found in Hamilton, you can expand your vocabulary, sharpen your language skills, and discover the joy of creative English.


Remember, the beauty of language lies not just in its structure, but in the boundless creativity it offers.

So, embrace the beats, let the words flow, and watch your English soar to new heights!



Statue of Liberty, New York, New York
Statue of Liberty, New York, New York 2011

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