Sorting Hamilton

Emma Grant moderated a “Sorting Hamilton” panel at Leviosa that featured Heidi TandyRachael Vaughn of Snapecast, and me.  I love Emma’s model for live sortings:  she designates different corners of the room for different Houses, and when she says a character’s name, you move to the corner that represents the House where you think they belong.  Then there is discussion, and if you change your mind, you move to another corner.  Sometimes you stand between two or more Houses.

Emma started by asking the panel:  Why do we Sort in fandoms that are not HP?  We talked about how useful the Sorting model is for understanding characters and real people, and how Lin-Manuel Miranda is one of us:  a creator in a post-Harry Potter world who incorporates HP models, allusions, and assumptions into his own work.  For example, he has said that he modeled Hamilton’s introduction to first Burr, then friends Lafayette, Laurens, and Mulligan, after Harry meeting first Draco, then Ron and Hermione in Sorcerer’s Stone.

Emma had the panel model a discussion on where we would sort Hamilton.  Then she had the attendees sort Hamilton and as many other characters as we could in that time.

Heidi has always sorted Hamilton as Ravenclaw, as far as I know.  The basis of her argument was that she thinks about what the characters would have been and chosen at age 11.  Clever!  I hadn’t thought of that!  One attendee said that all of Hamilton’s learning might have been in service of furthering ambitions rather than the joy of learning, so she could see Slytherin.  But Heidi said she thought his learning Hebrew was not for benefit but for enjoyment, and that seemed a convincing argument to me.

Akemi42 explored possible arguments for Hufflepuff.  She tended to see a lot of Gryffindor in him, I think she said, but she talked about the decisions he made that put his family and loved ones first, rather than himself.  She knew I was going to argue “any House but Hufflepuff” so I appreciated that she made the effort to examine that possibility.

Emma surprised me by saying Ravenclaw, since I knew she had previously argued that his ambition indicated Slytherin.  But she had gotten to see the show recently and mentioned that the live performances often changed her understanding of characters.

I said I could see strong arguments for Hamilton being Slytherin or Gryffindor, but I read him as Ravenclaw.  I could have gone on for ages about why, but I compacted my ranting into a top 10 list.  I wish I hadn’t thrown out that list; I’ll try to recreate it now, roughly.

Top 10 Reasons Why I Think Hamilton was a Ravenclaw (more or less what I said at the panel)

10.  I interpret Lin-Manuel Miranda as saying he wasn’t Slytherin.  In discussing Burr waiting for Theodosia (and I think of Burr, and the ability to wait, as pure Slytherin), he said something like, “Can you imagine Hamilton waiting for anything?”
9.  Once the fighting was over and Hamilton had secured a higher station, he moved to intellectual pursuits.
8.  Jefferson sorts Hamilton (in the musical, anyway) as Ravenclaw.
“He knows nothing of loyalty.
Smells like new money, dresses like fake royalty.
Desperate to rise above his station,
Everything he does betrays the ideal of our nation.”
“So quick-witted.  I bet you were quite a lawyer.”
In other words:  Not a Hufflepuff (loyalty).  Not a Slytherin (obvious social climber).  Not a Gryffindor (betrays ideals).  Quick-witted:  Ravenclaw.
7.  He endorsed Jefferson over Burr based on logic rather than personal feelings, loyalty, or benefit.
6.  “The Farmer Refuted.”  Slytherin Burr knows that some people are simply thick-headed and urges Hamilton, “Let him be.”  But Hamilton cannot let it go and loses control with outrage over Seabury’s stupidity.  I consider it a largely Ravenclaw trait to have trouble accepting the true diversity of humans and to get stuck wanting people to see things the “right” way.
5.  Angelica sorts Hamilton as Ravenclaw, I think.  At first, I think she considered Slytherin:  “He’ll do what it takes to survive.”  But then, I think she concluded Ravenclaw:  “You married an Icarus.  He flew too close to the sun.”  I find that Ravenclaws can be so committed to ideas that we lose sight of practical considerations of human nature — which are essential to survival.
4.  Hamilton wanted to build something that would outlive him:  loyalty to an idea, something he would never see personally.  Burr, in contrast, wanted to be in the room where it happened:  personal ambition.
3.  When Burr asks, “What if you’re backing the wrong horse?” about Hamilton’s desire to write the Federalist Papers, that’s an argument that doesn’t even make sense to Hamilton.  Some things are sacred and true, such as the fight for a free nation.  This isn’t a game.
2.  The six-hour speech at the Continental Congress.  A Slytherin would have realized the fellow delegates were bored.  A Gryffindor would have burned out on passion for the topic before six hours.  A Hufflepuff wouldn’t hog the floor.  But a Ravenclaw could easily get lost in his own mind for hours and somehow believe, mistakenly, that everyone else can keep up or even wants to.
1.  The Reynolds Pamphlet.  Worst doofus Ravenclaw move of his life.  Suuuuure, everyone loves logic!  Logically, those 92 pages prove that he is innocent of the charges of speculation!  How could anyone possibly have any complaint against Hamilton after this?  An attendee wondered if the Reynolds Pamphlet was an impulsive act and I said that 92 pages, written with a quill, could not have been impulsive.

After the panel sorted Hamilton, Emma asked the attendees what they thought.  There were many votes for Ravenclaw, Slytherin, and Gryffindor — I think a couple votes for Hufflepuff or hybrid Hufflepuff.  There were strong arguments from everyone; many of Hamilton’s strengths could have manifested in any House.

Burr:  Nearly the entire room got up and moved over to the Slytherin corner, heh!  In my opinion, Miranda wrote him deliberately as a Slytherin, with the Slytherinesque motto “Talk less, smile more.”  I also think the line “I survived, but I paid for it” shows the bitter side of being Slytherin.

Eliza:  Many votes for Hufflepuff, but a strong showing for Gryffindor as well.  My take on Eliza’s Hufflepuff nature:  if you really hurt a Hufflepuff, they won’t attack back.  They won’t take revenge.  All they will do is withdraw their support.  And you will DIE.

Angelica:  A split vote!  For me, Angelica rings all my happiest Ravenclaw chimes, but there were votes for all houses.  “Three fundamental truths at the exact same time” gave me a thrill of recognition the first time I heard it, especially the way she could then list them in fully formed thoughts in order of priority.  That, combined with “nice going, Angelica” — the chagrin at the self for making a lightning decision based on logic, never wavering, but hurting emotionally for it.  Yes, that’s my experience of being a Ravenclaw:  you do the math.  It gives you a clear answer.  Eliza’s desire for Hamilton, Eliza’s giving nature and Angelica’s protectiveness of it, Angelica’s esteem for her sister above herself:  the sum comes out the same every time, far greater than the value of Angelica’s desire for Hamilton or the yearning of her intellect for an equal.

Jefferson:  ooh, interesting!  Historical Jefferson was generally acknowledged as a Ravenclaw.  But Broadway Jefferson?  Hmm.  A split on that one.

Washington:  a good split between Hufflepuff and Gryffindor, with acknowledgment that historical Washington comes off as more Gryffindor.  People argued that Washington’s ability to handle insults and keep going was Hufflepuff.  I said my favorite friendship in Hamilton is Washington-Eliza, especially the way he sent her a gift after the Reynolds pamphlet, and I think they understood each other as Hufflepuffs.

I love viewing other stories through a Potterverse lens!  I see Hamilton, like so many Potterverse characters, living out his second chance (surviving the hurricane, becoming a new man in New York).  When he considers his life during the moment before Burr’s bullet reaches him, I see it as a parallel to Harry’s time in King’s Cross, knowing he could decide to go on to his rest and nobody would blame him, or he could resume the pain and the struggle to help others.  Choosing to duel but then aiming the gun to the sky seem to me like Hamilton showing that he is a Master of Death, choosing the moment he is ready to greet death, answering Burr’s Avada Kedavra with his own Expelliarmus.


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