"Wait For It" Sets The Stage For 'Hamilton's Duel

by Molly Freeman

Considering there are 46 songs on the original cast recording of Hamilton, there's sure to be some debate about which track is the best. Everyone will have their favorites, though I've personally seen many express their love for "Guns and Ships," "Burn," and "The Schyler Sisters." But, certainly one of the most well-received songs is Aaron Burr's emotional aside in the middle of act one: "Wait For It." But, what are Hamilton's "Wait For It" lyrics really about? In the context of the musical's larger storyline, "Wait For It" speaks to the rivalry between Burr and Alexander Hamilton, with the former comparing his own success and relationships to those of his friend/rival — Hamilton, who had just gotten married to Eliza Schuyler while Burr was, at the time, in a relationship with a married woman.

In fact, Burr speaks to his relationship with this woman, Theodosia, in the first stanza of "Wait For It:"

Theodosia writes me a letter every dayI'm keeping the bed warm while her husband is awayHe's on the British side in GeorgiaHe's trying to keep the colonies in lineBut he can keep all of GeorgiaTheodosia, she's mine

But, as with other aspects of Burr's life, here he's competing with someone else. Although much of the song is focused on Hamilton, in the first stanza Burr clearly finds himself competing with Theodosia's husband, and covetous of his relationship with her. However, even though Burr seems to be the man Theodosia has chosen, he doesn't necessarily believe he has won, as he hints at waiting for a reason why she chose him.

Love doesn't discriminateBetween the sinnersAnd the saintsIt takes and it takes and it takesAnd we keep loving anywayWe laugh and we cryAnd we breakAnd we make our mistakesAnd if there's a reason I'm by her sideWhen so many have triedThen I'm willing to wait for itI'm willing to wait for it

Still, one of Burr's major characteristics throughout Hamilton is his inability to choose a side. "Talk less, smile more," is his motto and though he has seen a number of major conflicts in his life (like the Revolutionary War, for one), Burr is always on his own side first and foremost.

My grandfather was a fire and brimstone preacherBut there are things that theHomilies and hymns won't teach yaMy mother was a geniusMy father commanded respectWhen they died they left no instructionsJust a legacy to protect

As he explains, his efforts are the result of being left an orphan by his parents, but with "a legacy to protect." While Hamilton has tried to make something of himself despite his childhood, Burr has been motivated to make his parents proud and prove they didn't die in vain. For him, that makes the stakes of life and death so much higher.

Death doesn’t discriminateBetween the sinnersAnd the saintsIt takes and it takes and it takesAnd we keep living anywayWe rise and we fallAnd we breakAnd we make our mistakesAnd if there’s a reason I’m still aliveWhen everyone who loves me has diedI’m willing to wait for it

However, Burr acknowledges in "Wait For It" that he doesn't have much control over other's actions, only over his own. As a result, he can only achieve what he wants by focusing on himself.

I am the one thing in life I can controlI am inimitableI am an originalI’m not falling behind or running lateI’m not standing stillI am lying in wait

Still, Burr is human, and he can't help but look at what Hamilton has accomplished, what Hamilton has overcome already in his life, so Burr continues to compare himself to his rival. He wonders what it's "like in his shoes" while also seeming to resent whatever reason there may be that Hamilton "keeps winning anyway" despite the challenges he has faced. In his eyes, Burr has had to fight harder than Hamilton for less success.

Hamilton faces an endless uphill climbHe has something to proveHe has nothing to loseHamilton’s pace is relentlessHe wastes no timeWhat is it like in his shoes?Hamilton doesn’t hesitateHe exhibits no restraintHe takes and he takes and he takesAnd he keeps winning anywayHe changes the gameHe plays and he raises the stakesAnd if there’s a reasonHe seems to thrive when so few survive, then Goddamnit—I'm willing to wait for it

So, "Wait For It" helps to give viewers a look into Burr's side of the story, which inevitably sets the stage for the climactic duel in the show when Burr's jealousy and anger reach a breaking point, and he winds up shooting and killing Hamilton in a duel. "Wait For It" is foreshadowing the emotional and story climax in the final stanza:

Life doesn't discriminateBetween the sinners and the saintsIt takes and it takes and it takesAnd if there's a reason I'm still aliveWhen so many have diedThen I'm willin' to—Wait for it

All in all, "Wait For It" works to develop the character of Aaron Burr within the context of Hamilton. But, even beyond the show, "Wait For It" speaks to the feelings of competition most of us are guilty of, as well as not necessarily feeling like we measure up to the people around us at some point in our lives. Perhaps that's why "Wait For It" has become a favorite Hamilton song for many — I know that's why it's mine.

Images: Giphy (3)