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Angels in America

Tony Kushner

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions and Essay Topics

full title ·  Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes; Part One is entitled Millennium Approaches; Part Two is entitled Perestroika

author · Tony Kushner

type of work · Play, in two parts

genre · Political drama (preoccupied with themes of democracy, community and personal responsibility)

language · English (although some characters intermittently speak in French)

time and place written · Begun in 1989; Part One was first presented in workshop form in 1990 and had its world premiere in 1991, while Part Two was workshopped in 1991 and premiered in 1992, though Kushner continued to tinker with both scripts; written primarily in New York City

date of first publication · 1992

publisher · Theatre Communications Group

narrator · None

climax · The main climaxes come late in Perestroika, with Louis's confrontation of Joe in Act Four and Belize and Louis's recitation of the Kaddish for Roy in Act Five. Other, lesser climaxes include Joe and Louis's abandonment of their lovers in Act Two, Scene Nine of Millennium; the Angel's first appearance at the end of Part One; and Prior's visit to Heaven and his rejection of his prophecy at the end of Part Two.

protagonist · Four main characters can be considered the protagonists: Louis and Joe, who abandon their partners and then repent, and Prior and Harper, who are abandoned and learn to assert themselves

antagonist · Most importantly, Roy Cohn and the Angel; more generally, homophobia and intolerance, lack of community, and the ravages of AIDS

setting (time) · October 1985 to February 1986, with an epilogue in February 1990

setting (place) · Mostly New York City, with a few scenes in Salt Lake City, Moscow and an airliner flying to San Francisco, along with others in Heaven, Hell, dream sequences and places imagined by the characters

point of view · The play focuses equally on all the main characters (Joe, Harper, Louis, Prior, Roy), giving us access to their thoughts in the form of lengthy speeches to others and sometimes monologues; some scenes focus on other characters who seem unrelated to the plot (e.g. Aleksii Antedilluvianovich Prelapsarianov)

falling action · Prior returns from Heaven to his hospital room, where his friends are asleep; Louis asks Prior if he can come back to him, but Prior says no; Harper leaves Joe forever, and boards a flight to San Francisco; Louis, Prior, Belize and Hannah reconvene at the Bethesda Fountain four years later, as Prior defiantly proclaims his desire to keep living

tense · Mostly present—action unfolds before our eyes; a few flashbacks, as when Prior recounts the story of the Angel's visit to Belize

foreshadowing · The play does not rely heavily on foreshadowing, although certain early passages evoke later ones, like Joe's memory of Jacob wrestling the Angel and Prior's literal wrestling in Part Two

tone · Often heavily dramatic, poetic and theatrical mixed with frequent humor, allusions to pop culture and references to contemporary politics and events

themes · Community; the politics, demands and viewpoints of identity, especially ethnicity, race and homosexuality; stasis versus change; truth, lying and coming out of the closet; tradition and heritage; the aftereffects of history; death and disease; prejudice and stigma; forgiveness; sexuality

motifs · Biblical references; politics; religion, particularly Judaism and Mormonism; humor, especially gay camp humor; medicine and the body; travel; imagination, hallucination and dreams; fantasy; debate and argument

symbols · Few direct symbols, but some suggestive images include the city of San Francisco; the Sacred Prophetic Implements; God's flaming Aleph; angels of different kinds

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Subtitle mistake

by kaythumbs, November 13, 2014

I can see that this is not the forum for this but I don't know how to get a note to Tony Kushner nor to the people responsible for the subtitles. Had seen Angels in America a couple of times when it first came out so was revisiting it. Now old, I turned on the subtitles. In the beginning, Justin Kirk shows a lesion to his lover, who says it is just a burst blood vessel. Justin/Prior says " It is KS." The subtitle said "It is chaos."

At first I was appalled by the mistake and that nobody had apparently checked out the subtitles. ... Read more

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