The World Was Wide Enough is the penultimate song in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. This song is a couple of the big main songs composed into one, and it covers the famous duel between Hamilton and Burr. During the duel itself, Burr’s state of mind is compromised, the world is distorted in his vision, and he has wild thoughts flying through his head. And so, the countdown begins. A reprise of the 10 duel commandments begins. During this part of the song, Burr states “this man will not make an orphan of my daughter.” Though Burr might have been thinking this, his daughter wasn’t necessarily alone. His daughter at this point was already married happily and loved by others as well. Other key points during Burr’s perspective of the duel, is when Burr says, “They won’t tell you this in your classes, but look it up Hamilton was wearing his glasses, if not to take deadly aim, it’s him or me the world will never be the same.” Burr was a very cautious and confident man, but in this moment, he could barely hold himself together and he took all things into consideration. Right before the countdown ends, time stops, and Hamilton enters a soliloquy which relates back to the second song of the musical, My Shot. He talks about his legacy, how he wants to be remembered, and whether to throw away his shot, both figuratively and literally. He reviews the major turning points of his life after he came to New York and thinks about the people he’s encountered, that are waiting for him on the ‘other side’. Eventually, he concluded to make a wise decision and he shot his shot into the trees.
As soon as Burr heard the gunshot, he panicked, and shot his gun as well, hitting Hamilton right between the ribs. He gets rushed away as Hamilton gets rowed back to be with Angelica and Eliza. Burr goes to a bar to get a drink and he realizes, that if he educated himself with a broader perspective, and didn’t act harshly, that he wouldn’t have killed Hamilton, the two of them would have been able to spread both of their opinions, and that he wouldn’t be labelled as the bad guy in the future.
Though this is one of the longest songs in the musical, it only has two voices, Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and Burr (Leslie Odom Jr). This song in a sense switches the two personalities. Burr is nervous and doesn’t want to throw his, or his daughters, reputation down the drain and he won’t let Hamilton destroy his family. Therefore, throughout this song, Burr becomes this rash man, who isn’t prepared, and his decisions are on the spot. Hamilton however, wants to be remembered. He wants to leave a legacy and he thinks it through. He realizes that sometimes, he isn’t always the center of attention. Therefore, he waits for it and throws away his shot. Both men’s decision changes their lives forever.
The historical duel started when Burr took the senate seat from Hamilton’s father in law, Philip Schuyler. Hamilton was already slightly aggravated by this. Therefore, in a couple of years when Burr was running for president a couple of years later, Hamilton stood for Jefferson instead of Burr. Burr in defense, sent him letters calling him names in public. This went back and forth for what seemed like ages. Finally, Burr couldn’t deal with it anymore and challenges Hamilton to a duel. The two went to the battlefield in New Jersey and commenced in a draw duel. The rest was history. Hamilton shot first, and Burr shot second, and Hamilton lost his life. Burr was charged but didn’t spend any time in jail, however, his political career was destroyed. In letters that Hamilton wrote before his death, he stated multiple times that he meant to throw away his shot, and the motive did include ruining Burr’s career. Burr also stated that “Had I read Sterne more and Voltaire less, I should have known the world was wide enough for Hamilton and me.” Sterne was an author that wrote books about characters who wouldn’t harm a fly (Tristam Shandy), while Voltaire wrote books about characters who often acted harshly and carried out executions to get what t they want.
The big idea that this song best fits is disparities in power alter the balance of relationships between individuals and between society. This big idea is highly prominent because the main reason Hamilton and Burr have these issues is due to their difference in power. Hamilton jeopardized Burr’s political career forever. The career that Burr thought he was for sure to have because he was born into a wealthy family. He never thought someone who came from the Caribbean could kick him off his position. He learned from new money, something he had never had. If the two men had been on the same social status, Burr wouldn’t have felt as threatened as he is with a ‘foreigner’.
This song impacts me the most throughout the entire musical because this is the song where both Burr and Hamilton had a huge epiphany. Hamilton learned that not everything is about him and that his legacy is written by both himself and others. Burr, on the other hand, learned that he isn’t the center of attention and his intentions and techniques aren’t always right.
Though the entire song is meaningful, there are three specific passages that I believe make the song the way that it is. The first one is “If I throw away my shot, is this how you’ll remember me?”. This quote relates back to the second song, My shot. When Hamilton is in his monologue moment, he asks himself if he should throw away his bullet. Whether or not this duel is worth it. If this bullet is what he will be remembered by, if this is how he wants to die. He remembers when he was told, “Dying is easy young man-Living is harder’ (Right hand man).
The second passage is “Rise up, rise up, rise up, Eliza! My love take your time I’ll see you on the other side.” This far into Hamilton’s monologue, he’s already chosen to “throw away my shot.” However, he wasn’t necessarily throwing it away, instead he was passing it to Eliza. He tells Eliza to carry on his legacy and to take her time, that she needs to persevere through and to remember than he’s waiting for her. He states that even through all that they’ve been through, he still loves her and always will.
And last but not least, “The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.” This portrays how this duel was unnecessary and a tragedy. Burr realizes that he let his conflicts and problems get in the way of his political pursuits. He didn’t need to rid Hamilton to be in power and to voice his opinions.
The major theme that covers this song, is fear of failure. The main reason Burr shot his bullet without thinking is due to the fact he didn’t want to die. He didn’t want to leave his daughter stranded. He didn’t want to lose to Hamilton, who destroyed his reputation. But most importantly, he didn’t want to fail. He didn’t want to fail to someone with no social standing and he didn’t want to fail himself and his family name. The stigma of failure caused Burr to act rashly and ruin his future forever. Because Hamilton wasn’t scared of failure, from taking big decisions, to taking his life, he was naturally more successful than Burr was.