Angels in America | Study Guide

Tony Kushner

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Angels in America | Quotes


Every day of your lives the miles ... between that place and this one you cross. Every day.

Rabbi Chemelwitz, Millennium Approaches, Act 1, Scene 1

The rabbi is alone onstage, effectively addressing the audience although he is ostensibly addressing the mourners at Sarah Ironson's funeral. She voyaged from Europe to the United States; queer people and other marginalized people also make a crossing from the margins to the majority culture every day.


Homosexuals are men ... who have zero clout. Does this sound like me, Henry?

Roy Cohn, Millennium Approaches, Act 1, Scene 9

Roy wants to distinguish between his object of desire ("other men") and his social identity (a man who has a lot of clout). Roy is not wrong to point out the lowly social status of gay men in 1985. But he is mistaken to think "homosexual" can mean whatever he wants it to. The label's social reality can't be covered up or wished away; it can only be contested and transformed.


This is ... bowel movement and blood-red meat! This stinks, this is politics, Joe, the game of being alive.

Roy Cohn, Millennium Approaches, Act 2, Scene 6

Roy sees politics as visceral: guts and combat. It is a vision of politics as acquisition: more money, more prestige, more power. So Roy does not use the heart or the brain as a metaphor for politics, but the gut, where blind amoral life processes, eating and excreting, occur.

These same words are spoken at the end of both parts of Angels in America, but by different characters and with different meanings. When the Angel says these words, the "Great Work" means the prophet Prior spreading a message to humans that progress must stop. When Prior says them, his vision of the "Great Work" is about imagining a new, more inclusive world and bringing it into being through the "Work."


I hate this country. It's just big ideas, and stories, and people dying.

Belize, Perestroika, Act 4, Scene 5

Belize serves as a counterpoint to Louis's idealism about America, and to his blindness about stories unlike his own. "Not all of us chose to migrate," Belize points out. Belize feels that America has overlooked the suffering of people dying of AIDS and the oppression of minorities in general. Under the circumstances, American ideals, such as equality, are "just big ideas."


One of the main guys ... said, "Finally. I've hated that little faggot for thirty-six years."

Ethel Rosenberg, Perestroika, Act 4, Scene 11

Although Roy is domineering and cruel, he also suffers from discrimination as a gay man. Part of Tony Kushner's inspiration for the character Roy Cohn came from a block on the AIDS Quilt that eulogized Cohn with the words "Bully. Coward. Victim." Angels in America presents an equally complicated view of its fictionalized Roy Cohn.

Ethel adds these words to the end of the prayer Louis says for Roy. Ethel says the words first, and then Louis repeats them. They reflect the mixture of scorn and pity Ethel and Louis feel for Roy.


That's what politics is. The world moving ahead. And only in politics does the miraculous occur.

Louis Ironson, Perestroika, Act 5, Epilogue

Louis's vision of politics stands in stark contrast to Roy's. Roy sees politics as individuals maneuvering to amass power; Louis sees politics as a collective work of progress toward freedom.


We won't die secret deaths anymore ... We will be citizens. The time has come.

Prior Walter, Perestroika, Act 5, Epilogue

These are among the play's last lines, and they are addressed to the audience. The "gay fantasia on national themes" concludes with a call to bring AIDS out of the closet and queer citizens into the nation.


And I bless you: More Life.

Prior Walter, Perestroika, Act 5, Epilogue

Angels in America begins with a eulogy and ends with a blessing. This shift reflects Prior's transformation from a man dying of AIDS to a man living with AIDS.

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