Special Reports

Phillipa Soo Explains Her Take on Eliza's Gasp — and Why She's More Interested in Yours

You know you have a theory on what it means.

Phillipa Soo and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton
Phillipa Soo and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton
(© Joan Marcus)

It's a question that has been bugging audiences for years. At the end of the final number of Lin-Manuel Miranda's iconic, award-winning musical Hamilton, when Alexander Hamilton's wife Eliza looks out at the audience and utters a big gasp (some think it is in horror, others think in excitement), what does the gasp mean?

A couple of theories have rumbled around the internet — that Eliza at this point has "died" and joined her husband, son, and family "on the other side" (in reference to Hamilton's words in "The World Was Wide Enough" a few minutes before the end), while another states that the moment is a fourth wall break and Eliza is witnessing her and her husband's legacies presented in front of them.

A third idea involves Miranda himself guiding Eliza into the future in some strange Brechtian fantasy, but this has been pooh-poohed by the composer and lyricist online.

Miranda himself has been coy on the subject — on Twitter earlier this month he simply said: "The Gasp is The Gasp is The Gasp. I love all the interpretations."

But now the original Eliza herself, Phillipa Soo, has provided what seems to be more concrete answers.

Chatting on Sirius XM Radio, she said: "I would not be able to tell you what I was thinking in that precise moment when that shot was taken and what exactly was in my brain."

Soo had encouraged the Sirius presenters to give their own theories (that Eliza was stepping forward in time and breaking the fourth wall), which she confirmed were pretty much on the mark.

She went on: "Night to night it was different but it was a mixture of Eliza seeing that legacy, the orphanage (which is still standing), her kids telling her story. It's an exploration every day and you find new things every time.

"Sometimes, the [fourth] wall would break — it was looking out at all the beautiful audience faces and acknowledging the story that we had all just taken a ride to witness. The fact that we'd sat in the dark for two and a half hours, put ourselves in his shoes and told his story.

"So it was a culmination of all of those things. We shot the film two weeks before my final show so a lot of what you're seeing is not just that performance, but also that year and moment in time — the hope and potential that lived in that moment."

Soo also said she has been asked the question a lot more since the show has been released for streaming online. "My curiosity is always, 'What did you think?,' because that's more important to me."

There you go folks — confirmed by a Schuyler sister herself.

Watch Hamilton on Disney Plus now.

Featured In This Story