Skip Nav

Angels in America Critical Essays

Suggested Essay Topics

❶Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play. This page was last edited on 11 September , at

Critical Evaluation

From the SparkNotes Blog
Study Questions
Navigate Guide

The play contains multiple roles for several of the actors. Initially and primarily focusing on a gay couple in Manhattan, the play also has several other storylines, some of which occasionally intersect. The two parts of the play are separately presentable and entitled Millennium Approaches and Perestroika , respectively. The play has been adapted into an HBO miniseries of the same title. As Prior's illness progresses, Louis becomes unable to cope and moves out, leaving Prior to deal with his abandonment.

He is given emotional support by his friend Belize, an ex-drag queen and a hospital nurse, who also must deal with Louis' self-castigating guilt and myriad excuses for his behavior. Joe Pitt, a Mormon, Republican clerk in the same judge's office where Louis holds a clerical job, is offered a position in Washington, D.

Joe hesitates to accept out of concern for his agoraphobic , valium -addicted wife Harper, who refuses to move. Harper suspects that Joe does not love her in the same way she loves him, which is confirmed when Joe confesses his homosexuality. Harper retreats into drug-fueled escapist fantasies, including a dream where she crosses paths with Prior even though the two of them have never met in the real world.

Torn by pressure from Roy and a burgeoning infatuation with Louis, Joe drunkenly comes out to his conservative mother Hannah, who reacts badly. Concerned for her son, she sells her house in Salt Lake City and travels to New York to help repair his marriage.

Meanwhile, a drug-addled Harper has fled their apartment after a confrontation with Joe, wandering the streets of Brooklyn believing she is in Antarctica as Joe and Louis tentatively begins an affair. Defiantly refusing to publicly admit he is gay, Roy instead declares he has liver cancer. Facing disbarment for borrowing money from a client, Roy is determined to beat the case so he can die a lawyer and he attempts to position Joe in the Justice Department with the aim of having a friend in a useful place.

When Joe at last refuses his offer, he flies into a rage and collapses in pain. As he awaits transport to the hospital, he is visited by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg , whom he prosecuted in her trial for espionage, and who was executed after Roy illegally lobbied the judge for the death penalty.

Prior begins to hear an angelic voice telling him to prepare for her arrival, and receives visits from a pair of ghosts who claim to be his own ancestors, who inform him he is a prophet. Prior does not know if these visitations are caused by an emotional breakdown or if they are real. At the end of Part One, Prior is visited by an angel , who crashes through his bedroom ceiling and proclaims that "the Great Work" has begun.

At the funeral of a friend, a shaken Prior relates his encounter with the Angel to Belize. After revealing the presence of a mystical book underneath the tile in Prior's Kitchen, the Angel reveals to him that Heaven is a beautiful city that resembles San Francisco , and God, described as a great flaming Aleph , created the universe through copulation with His angels, who are all-knowing but unable to create or change on their own.

God, bored with the angels, made mankind with the power to change and create. The progress of mankind on Earth caused Heaven to suffer earthquake-like tremors and physically deteriorate. Finally, on the day of the San Francisco earthquake in , God abandoned Heaven. The Angel brings Prior a message for mankind—"stop moving! Belize believes that Prior is projecting his own fears of abandonment into an elaborate hallucination, but Prior suspects that his illness is the prophecy taking physical form, and that the only way the Angel can force him to deliver her message is to die.

Roy lands at the hospital in the care of Belize, where his condition rapidly declines. He manages to use his political clout to acquire a private stash of the experimental drug AZT , at the expense of withholding the drug from participants in a drug trial.

Alone in a hospital, Cohn finds himself increasingly isolated, with only Belize, who despises him, and the ghost of Ethel for company. Joe visits Roy, who is near death, and receives a final, paternal blessing from his mentor. However, when Joe confesses he has left Harper for a man, Roy rejects him in a violent reaction of fear and rage, ordering him to return to his wife and cover up his indiscretion. Prior goes to a Mormon visitor's center to research angels, where he meets Hannah, who is volunteering there and taking care of Harper, who has slowly returned to reality but is now deeply depressed.

The two share a spark of recognition from their shared dream, and witness a vision of Joe and Louis together. Louis, regretting his actions, begins to withdraw from Joe and begs Prior's forgiveness, which Prior angrily refuses. Belize informs Louis about Joe's connection with Roy, whom Louis despises for his conservative politics and underhanded dealings. Louis, as a result, researches Joe's legal history and confronts him over a series of hypocritical and homophobic decisions Joe recommended to the courts.

The confrontation turns violent, and Joe punches Louis in the face, ending their affair. Ethel Rosenberg watches Roy suffer and decline before delivering the final blow as he lies dying: He has been disbarred after all. Delirious, Roy seems to mistake Ethel for his mother, begging her to comfort him, and Ethel sings a Yiddish Lullaby as Roy appears to pass away.

However, with a sudden burst of energy he reveals that he has tricked her, viciously declaring that he has finally beaten her by making her sing. He then collapses and dies. He asks Louis to recite the Kaddish for Roy. Unseen by the living, Ethel guides Louis through the prayer, symbolically forgiving Roy before she departs for the hereafter. Prior, who has jealously started stalking Joe, collapses from pneumonia while visiting the Mormon center and Hannah rushes him back to the hospital.

Prior tells her about his vision and is surprised when Hannah accepts this, based on her belief in angelic revelations within the Mormon church. At the hospital, the Angel reappears enraged that Prior rejected her message. Prior, on Hannah's advice, wrestles the Angel , who relents and opens a ladder into Heaven. Prior climbs into Heaven and tells the other angels that he refuses to deliver their message, as without progress, humanity will perish, and begs them for more Life, no matter how horrible the prospect might be.

He returns to his hospital bed, where he awakes from his vision with his fever broken and his health beginning to recover. He makes amends with Louis, but refuses to take him back. The play concludes in Prior and Louis are still separated, but Louis, along with Belize, remains close in order to support and care for Prior, and Hannah has found new perspective on her rigid beliefs, allowing her to accept her son as he is and forge a friendship with Prior.

Prior, Louis, Belize, and Hannah gather before the angel statue in Bethesda Fountain , discussing the fall of the Soviet Union and what the future holds. Prior talks of the legend of the Pool of Bethesda , where the sick were healed. Prior delivers the play's final lines directly to the audience, affirming his intentions to live on and telling them that "the Great Work" shall continue.

The play is written for eight actors, each of whom plays two or more roles. Kushner's doubling, as indicated in the published script, requires several of the actors to play the opposite gender.

The play's second part, Perestroika , was still being developed as Millennium Approaches was being performed. It was performed several times as staged readings by both the Eureka Theatre during the world premiere of part one in , and the Mark Taper Forum in May In November it received its London debut in a National Theatre production on the Cottesloe stage, in repertory with a revival of Millennium Approaches , again directed by Declan Donnellan.

Wolfe , with Millennium Approaches performed on May 4 and Perestroika joining it in repertory on November 23, closing December 4, Among the replacements during the run were F.

The published script indicates that Kushner made a few revisions to Perestroika in the following year. These changes officially completed the work in Johnson as Joe Pitt, Barbara E. Kushner made relatively minor revisions to Millennium Approaches and additional, more substantial revisions to Perestroika during a run at the Signature Theatre in , which were published in a complete edition. In , a production of the two-part play was produced by Sydney-based theatre company, Belvoir.

The production finished its season on July Asia premiered the play in its entirety in by the New Voice Company in the Philippines.

This was followed by another production in November at the Singapore Airlines Theatre. An Italian adaptation of the play premiered in Modena in , in a production directed by Ferdinando Bruni and Elio De Capitani [17] which was awarded several national awards. The production received critical praise and launched the new theater company. In September , a revival of the two plays were staged in Melbourne at fortyfivedownstairs for nearly a four-week run.

Kushner prefers that the theatricality be transparent. In his notes about staging, he writes: Roy's coming out is not by choice, so it does not alleviate his sins as a thoughtful reconsideration of his attitude towards gay people might ; nonetheless, the Kaddish scene emphasizes that Roy is reunited with the gay community despite the fact that he has rejected that community in life.

Coming out is not altogether a voluntary act—in the end, Roy cannot escape the fact of who he is. Discuss the themes of law and justice in the play. Is Joe correct that the two are separate entities?

Or does the play encourage us to see a more visionary potential for the law? Law and justice are critically important themes in the play—we need only consider the characters' professions Roy, Joe and Louis all work in various aspects of the law or the courthouse setting of key scenes. But as the question hints, different characters have different views of the relationship between law and justice, ideally and in practice. Roy personifies Joe's idea that law and justice are two separate entities: He wants to remain a lawyer until his death simply because of the status it confers on him rather than for any positive reason.

Not coincidentally, despite this appreciation of the law's power he has little respect for the letter of the law—he borrows money from a client, blackmails a friend and tells Joe, "There are so many laws; find one you can break. This is law totally divorced from justice. Despite his flaws, Louis offers a different model for the relationship between the two values.

Louis is also preoccupied with the law, both earthly and Biblical—he asks Rabbi Chemelwitz for scriptural advice on his predicament with Prior—but his view is more virtuous and humane. In Act One, Scene Eight of Millennium, he tells Prior that in his view the "shaping of the law, not its execution" is most important. For Roy, all that matters is the outcome, the tangible result; Louis cares about the weighing of right and wrong, the morality of a situation, rather than a specific outcome he can manipulate or use.

The final fight between Louis and Joe tests the conflict between these two opposing viewpoints. Louis criticizes Joe for his decisions, which cleverly adopt the letter of the law without considering its spirit or the effects on real people.

In this clash of views, Louis's is definitely depicted as superior: Joe has no substantial role in the play after this scene, while Louis is allowed to take part in the utopian epilogue. Thus, the play clearly encourages a more visionary potential for the law. By using real court decisions as the models for Joe's decisions, moreover, and by criticizing the real-life Reagan administration, it also insists that that potential be applied to the political world rather than simply everyday moral conundrums.

The character of Belize stands out as exceptionally compassionate and good and yet at times seemingly two-dimensional. Which view is correct? Is Belize a virtuous stereotype or a complex moral authority? Belize is the only non-white character in the play; as such, he seems to carry the special burden of representing the point of view of an entire community. This is especially true when contrasted with the wide range of viewpoints presented by members of other minority groups, especially gays, of course, who range from the dismally conservative Roy to the progressive optimist Louis.

In the debate scene between Belize and Louis, Belize consistently argues a position that we might consider the "black response" to Louis's unintentional racism.

It is less an individual point of view than a generic corrective to a particular white character's excess. Belize's lack of individual distinctiveness is heightened by the fact that he has less of an individual history or a personal life than the other characters: Despite the fact that we might want to know more about Belize's history, however, we should not discredit Kushner for making the decision to make Belize's race a major part of his character.

Navigation menu

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

- Angels in America The play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, by Tony Kushner, contained situations in which characters’ personalities underwent great changes from the beginning of .

Privacy FAQs

Essay on Angels in America Words | 5 Pages. Angels in America The play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, by Tony Kushner, contained situations in which characters’ personalities underwent great changes from the beginning of the play to the end. One of the most significant and noticeable changes was that of Harper.

About Our Ads

Join Now Log in Home Literature Essays Angels in America Angels in America Essays Identitiy Crisis: The Inward Voyage Anonymous Angels in America. At the first scene of Tony Kushner’s drama Angels in America (), Rabbi Isidor Chemelwitz's eulogy for Sarah . Essay on Queer Binaries in Kushner's Angels in America This paper will discuss Tony Kushner’s Angels in America - A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, published in The play gives insight into what it meant to be a gay American in the late 20th century showing accurate depictions of social, medical, religious, and political life.

Cookie Info

Angels in America Essay Topics & Writing Assignments Tony Kushner This set of Lesson Plans consists of approximately pages of tests, essay questions, lessons, and other teaching materials. As a "fantasia," Angels in America is a major departure from prevailing theatrical realism, with detours into the religious and the supernatural—angels, ghosts, apparitions and visions appear over and over. What effect do these fantastical elements have on the play as a whole?