Exploring Spirituality in Angels in America

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It’s the late 1980’s, the age of exciting new technology and uncompromising prosperity. A golden time when all is easily attainable in life and nothing is off limits; fast track careers, an abundance of wealth and new expressions of sexual experimentation. It is certainly a time when religion appear to have taken a back seat in the lives of so many young up and coming professionals. In his play, Angels in America, Tony Kushner uses religious imagery and biblical references to help his characters find meaning in modern America as well as a means for convincing the audience that prophecy is possible in secular times and to help illustrate the age-old struggle between religious morals and sexuality in the twenty-first century.

Tony Kushner, who is of Jewish descent, utilizes Christian and Mormon ideologies in the writing of Angels, but Judaism is by far the most prevalent and significant to its plot. Much of the motif that runs through the play is not traditional Judaism but rather Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism. During Millennium Approaches, the first of the two plays, the curtains opens on a traditional Jewish funeral where we meet Louis Ironson, the grandson of the deceased, and his boyfriend Prior Walter. Prior, a Christian by birth, is dying from AIDS and while heavily medicated begins to have visions of an angel who informs him that he is to be a prophet for the modern age. Although angels are deeply rooted in Christianity, Kushner’s introduction of an angel has a Jewish twist to its significance.

Prior Walter’s first vision occurs while in his hospital room; “Stage Directions: Suddenly there is an astonishing blaze of light, a huge chord sounded by a gigantic choir, and a great book with steel pages mounted atop a molten-red pillar pops up from the stage floor. The book opens; there is a large Aleph inscribed on its pages, which bursts into flames”(Kushner III.ii). The Aleph inscribed on the book is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and...
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