Hamilton Using Critical Approach

First draft due – minimum 3 full pages

This draft should be in “regular” essay format, including internal citation, but may stop short of incorporating all evidence you will use.

Final draft due – minimum 5 full pages. MLA format – Times New Roman 12 point font; correct heading, spacing, and indentation; internal citation; list of works cited page [does not count toward page count]; etc.

THE PROMPT – Your job in this assignment is twofold:

  1. Write an essay in which you make a careful, arguable, interpretive claim [thesis] about a literary element or elements in Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
  2. Frame and support the claim above using ideas and evidence consistent with a specific critical approach [lens/”school”] of literary criticism of your choice from the list below. You must do independent research to find and incorporate one published example of your chosen literary theory/school/lens.


Remember that an element to choose could be characterization [motivation, development, relationship], theme [loss, ambition, jealousy, redemption], imagery, specific language use, or really any literary element.

Use lots of specific references to the musical. Choose places that best show and support your ideas.

Make a connection between your ideas and those specific places in the text, and explain why each specific place connects to your ideas. [If that sounded repetitive, re-read it. Many folx forget to “connect and explain.”]

If you find yourself falling back on oversimplified claims, such as “Hamilton is hotheaded,” “Burr is paranoid,” etc., ask yourself why or how the author created that effect – Miranda deleted many songs and scenes and words – what is it about the part you are examining that it deserved to stay?

This essay does not need to cover the whole musical – in fact, it shouldn’t. You can focus on one particular section of the musical, or follow one or two particular characters’ interactions, or consider effects that result from specific language use or other literary technique.

Research your critical lens carefully. Get comfortable with the “way of looking,” and then stick to that lens. It will focus [wordplay!] your work.


Please do not spend time explaining the critical theory you will use. Presume the reader knows how the lens works. For example, avoid sentences and phrases such as “Feminist theory suggests women have been excluded or marginalized in literature and examines the ways in which that marginalization has occurred; just use the approach!

You are writing for an audience that has watched/read/listened to the play. That means you do not need to retell the plot or explain character’s relationships to one another, etc.

Please do not simply repeat what has been said in class sessions or what you have read [this is called “parroting”]. You may *start* from what we have discussed in class or what your outside source asserts/argues, but go beyond…make claims which extend what you have found or heard!


  • Make your thesis statement in the introduction paragraph.
  • Use one outside scholarly source appropriately and only as needed. The bulk of your essay should be supported with primary evidence from the play along with your own original analysis of that evidence.
  • Write at least 5 full pages [even one word short cannot receive credit].
  • Format according to MLA style. Visit Purdue’s Online Writing Lab for info and help:
  • Write exclusively in 3rd person POV [Do not use: I, me, my, mine, we, us, you, your, yours].

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