In his Violence and the Sacred, René Girard claims that a community without a common enemy will always destroy itself with violence, unless and until a system of sacrifice can be put into place. This paper employs a Girardian analysis of the popular Broadway musical Hamilton, paying particular attention to the concepts of mimetic desire, reciprocal violence, and the monstrous double, as exemplified by the dramatic relationship between characters Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Just as Girard writes that “[wherever] differences are lacking, violence threatens," the relationship between Hamilton and Burr turns from friendship to bitter violence at exactly the rate that the differences between them are effaced. As well, the conflict between Hamilton and Burr can only flourish after the common enemy is purged from the colonies, leaving the community in a sacrificial crisis that can only be resolved by the double-expulsion of the violent monstrous doubles, Hamilton and Burr themselves. By analyzing Hamilton through this lens, the ultimate message of the text is revealed: if sacrifice, whether literal or symbolic, can solve the problems of a community, it is always at a cost; furthermore, in any act of violence, you are always at risk of harming your double/yourself. Further, this paper discusses the ways in which Hamilton demonstrates, subverts, and upholds the American consensus (as described by Sacvan Bercovitch) both within and without, and examines some of the popular and critical response in an attempt to gauge its sociopolitical effects.
- Alternative title
Hamilton, Mimetic Desire, and the Sacrificial Crisis
- DPLA rights
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
- Journal title
Papers & Publications
- Date submitted
18 July 2022
- Additional information
Michelle Acker is a poet and recent graduate of the University of North Florida with a major in English and a double minor in film studies and creative writing. While at UNF, she worked as a reader for the Talon Review, produced a short documentary on the Jacksonville Public Library with Afterimage Documentary, and presented a panel on "Digital Documentary" for 2016 UNF's Sigma Tau Delta Spring Showcase. She has had poetry published in The 2River View and Gesture Literary Journal. Currently, she works as a substitute teacher and a tutor in English, English literature, and essay writing.