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Hamilton! Dueling Comparisons

written by: Sarah Degnan Moje • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 3/6/2017

The musical that is sweeping the nation, Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton! is an explosive mix of history and music, politics and rap, duels and duets.Teach students about history and writing by comparing the three duels featured in the musical.

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    About Hamilton!

    Hamilton! Compare and Contrast Lesson Using biographical information on one of our founding fathers, the epic musical production seeks to tell many of the intriguing and interesting incidents in the life of Alexander Hamilton. Many students are aware that he founded the national bank and was killed in a duel by Vice President Aaron Burr. However, some of the other events in his life are not as well known.

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    The Duels

    Three times in the course of the musical, viewers (and listeners) witness onstage duels.

    The first duel, which occurs during the American Revolution, is between John Laurens, a close friend of Hamilton’s and Charles Lee, who for a time was Washington’s second in command. This duel explains the rules of dueling at the time (the 10 Duel Commandments).

    The audience watches in sadness as Hamilton’s young son Phillip is killed in a duel by William Eaker, a critic of Hamilton midway through the second act.

    Our story draws to a close with the historic duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, each of them providing a solo insight into their thoughts before shooting.

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    Compare and Contrast

    Musically, the three dueling numbers mirror each other to an extent. They have similar historical background stories, as well. All three duels were fought for honor; in every instance, the challenge is issued because one party spoke poorly of another party or a family member of the party. It is interesting then, to compare and contrast both of the musical numbers to determine how they capture the idea of dueling and dishonor, as well as the historical events that surround the three duels.

    Using the downloadable Venn Diagrams and Dueling Outline Forms, students can select to write one of two papers. They will either use the song lyrics sheet to compare the musical duels, or the historical summary sheet to compare the historical aspects of the duel. This lesson, which enforces writing skills in history and English classrooms, is sure to be a hit with the Hamilton! fans in your classroom.

Hamilton! Lesson Plan

This three-part series includes lesson plan ideas and activities based on the musical, Hamilton! Students will learn history, writing concepts and more.
  1. Hamilton! Dueling Comparisons
  2. Fostering Research Skills through Song Lyrics
  3. Hamilton! Soothing and Instigating: Political Personalities