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Hunter Wood
Hunter Wood

The Themes and Symbols of Angels in America PDF 34: A Critical Study of Tony Kushner's Masterpiece

Angels in America PDF 34: A Guide to the Play by Tony Kushner

Angels in America is a two-part play by American playwright Tony Kushner that explores the lives of several characters in New York City during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. It is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential works of American theater in the 20th century. In this article, we will provide you with a summary and analysis of the play, as well as some tips on how to access it online.

angels of america pdf 34



What is Angels in America?

Angels in America is a two-part play that consists of seven hours of theater divided into two parts: Part One: Millennium Approaches and Part Two: Perestroika. Each part has three acts, except for Perestroika, which has an additional epilogue. The play was first performed in 1991 and 1992, and won several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Tony Award for Best Play, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play. The play was also adapted into a miniseries by HBO in 2003, starring Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, and Patrick Wilson.

Why is it called PDF 34?

The title of this article refers to one of the ways that you can access the play online. PDF 34 is a file format that allows you to view and download documents on your computer or mobile device. You can find a PDF version of Angels in America on various websites, such as Beth Shalom, Illinois State University, or Internet Archive. However, we recommend that you also watch or listen to the play, as it is a highly theatrical and visual work that relies on the performance of the actors and the staging of the scenes.

What are the main themes and messages of the play?

Angels in America is a complex and rich play that explores many themes and messages, such as:

  • The impact of AIDS on individuals and society

  • The struggle for gay rights and acceptance

  • The clash between conservatism and liberalism in American politics

  • The crisis of faith and morality in modern times

  • The search for meaning and connection in a chaotic world

  • The power of imagination and creativity to transform reality

The play also challenges the audience to question their own beliefs and values, and to empathize with characters who are different from them. The play is not only a historical drama, but also a prophetic vision of the future, as it anticipates the changes and challenges that America and the world will face in the 21st century.

Summary of the play

Part One: Millennium Approaches

Act One

The play begins in 1985, with a funeral for Louis Ironson's grandmother. Louis is a neurotic and insecure Jewish man who works as a word processor at the federal appeals court. He is in a relationship with Prior Walter, a handsome and witty gay man who comes from an old WASP family. Prior reveals to Louis that he has AIDS, and that he has started to see visions of an angel. Louis is terrified and unable to cope with Prior's illness, and he considers leaving him.

Meanwhile, we meet Joe Pitt, a Mormon lawyer who works at the same court as Louis. Joe is married to Harper Pitt, a depressed and agoraphobic woman who is addicted to Valium. Joe is also secretly gay, and he struggles with his sexual identity and his religious faith. He receives a phone call from Roy Cohn, a powerful and ruthless Republican lawyer who is notorious for his involvement in the McCarthy trials and the Rosenberg execution. Roy offers Joe a job in Washington, D.C., as part of the Reagan administration. Joe is tempted by the offer, but he hesitates to leave his wife and his home.

Roy Cohn is also diagnosed with AIDS, but he refuses to accept it. He claims that he is not gay, but rather a heterosexual man who has sex with men. He also denies that he has AIDS, and insists that he has liver cancer instead. He blackmails his doctor into giving him experimental drugs, and he threatens to expose anyone who reveals his condition.

Act Two

Louis decides to leave Prior, but he cannot bring himself to tell him directly. He asks Joe for advice, and they start to develop a friendship. Joe confesses to Louis that he is gay, and Louis encourages him to come out of the closet. Joe tries to tell Harper the truth, but she refuses to listen. She escapes into her fantasies, where she meets Mr. Lies, a travel agent who takes her to exotic places.

Prior's condition worsens, and he is hospitalized. He is visited by Belize, his former lover and best friend, who is a black drag queen and a nurse. Belize tries to comfort Prior, but he also mocks him for his privilege and his melodrama. Prior tells Belize about his visions of the angel, who has told him that she will soon return.

Roy Cohn is also hospitalized, and he is assigned to the same room as Prior. Roy continues to deny his illness, and he abuses his power and influence to get better treatment. He also reveals that he has a stash of AZT, a new and scarce drug that could help AIDS patients. Belize despises Roy for his politics and his hypocrisy, and he plots to steal his AZT for Prior.

Act Three

Joe finally admits to Harper that he is gay, and that he wants to leave her. Harper is devastated, and she accuses him of destroying their marriage and their faith. She also tells him that she is pregnant, but she does not know if the baby is his or not. She decides to leave him first, and she boards a plane to San Francisco.

Louis and Joe meet again at the courthouse, where they witness a protest by gay activists against the government's negligence on AIDS. They are both drawn to each other, and they end up having sex in Central Park.

Prior is visited by the angel again, who crashes through the ceiling of his hospital room. She declares that he is a prophet, chosen to deliver a message to humanity. She tells him that God has abandoned the world, and that angels want him to stop human progress and movement. She gives him an ancient book called "The Book of Mormon", which contains the prophecy.

Part Two: Perestroika

Act One

Act Two

Louis and Joe move in together, but their relationship is strained by their differences. Louis is guilt-ridden about leaving Prior, and he tries to contact him. Joe is conflicted about his career and his politics, and he resists Louis's attempts to change him. They also face discrimination and violence from homophobic strangers.

Harper arrives in San Francisco, where she meets a friendly Mormon mother and her son. She also encounters Prior, who has traveled there to find the angel's other prophet. Prior tells Harper that he has seen Joe in his visions, and that he is his ex-lover. Harper realizes that Joe and Louis are together, and she decides to confront them.

Prior meets the angel's other prophet, who turns out to be a woman named Hannah Pitt, Joe's mother. Hannah has come to New York to help her son, but she has found him missing and his wife gone. She has also taken care of Roy Cohn, who is dying in the hospital. Roy has hallucinations of his past, and he is haunted by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, a woman he helped execute for espionage. Hannah and Prior bond over their mutual connection to Joe, and their experience with angels.

Act Three

Prior goes to the Mormon Visitor's Center, where he finds a diorama of the angel Moroni. He climbs into the diorama, and he is transported to Heaven. There, he meets a council of angels, who explain their plan to him. They want him to tell humans to stop moving, migrating, progressing, and mixing. They believe that this will restore God's order and attention. Prior is appalled by their idea, and he refuses to deliver their message. He demands to see God, but he learns that God has disappeared since 1906, when the San Andreas Fault was discovered.

Harper confronts Joe and Louis at their apartment, where she tells them that she knows everything. She also tells them that she has had an abortion, and that she does not want Joe back. She leaves them with a warning: "In this world, there is a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we've left behind, and dreaming ahead."

Roy Cohn dies in the hospital, but he does not admit defeat. He boasts that he has outsmarted death by hiding his own soul in a dummy corporation. He also reveals that he was the one who gave Joe the job in Washington, and that he has influenced his career ever since. He expects Joe to be loyal to him, even after his death.


The play ends in 1990, with Prior visiting the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park with Belize and Louis. They are joined by Hannah and Harper, who have become friends. Harper tells them that she is leaving for a new life in San Francisco, where she hopes to find "something better than happiness". She also says that she still sees Mr. Lies sometimes.

Prior tells the audience that he is still alive and well, despite his illness. He says that he still sees angels sometimes, but he does not listen to them. He says that he wants more life, even if it is hard and painful. He says that "the world only spins forward", and that "we will be citizens". He blesses the audience with "more life", and he asks them to join him in "the great work" of living.

Analysis of the play

The historical and political context of the play

Angels in America is set in the mid-1980s, a time of significant social and political change in America and the world. The play reflects on some of the major events and issues of that era, such as:

  • The AIDS epidemic, which killed millions of people worldwide, especially gay men. The play depicts the fear, stigma, ignorance, and suffering caused by AIDS, as well as the activism and solidarity of the gay community.

The use of magical realism and fantasy elements

Angels in America is not a realistic play, but rather a play that uses magical realism and fantasy elements to create a rich and imaginative world. The play mixes historical facts with fictional inventions, and it blends natural and supernatural phenomena. The play features angels, ghosts, dreams, visions, hallucinations, and other fantastical elements that challenge the boundaries of reality and logic. The play uses these elements to:

  • Express the inner states and emotions of the characters, such as their fears, desires, hopes, and conflicts.

  • Comment on the social and political realities of the time, such as the AIDS crisis, the Reagan era, and the Cold War.

  • Explore the themes and messages of the play, such as faith, morality, identity, sexuality, and change.

  • Engage the audience's imagination and creativity, and invite them to participate in the meaning-making process of the play.

The representation of sexuality, identity, and AIDS

Angels in America is a play that focuses on the lives and experiences of gay men in America during the AIDS crisis. The play portrays the diversity and complexity of gay identity and sexuality, as well as the challenges and struggles that gay men face in a homophobic society. The play also shows how AIDS affects not only the physical health of the characters, but also their psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. The play explores how sexuality and identity are related to:

  • Love and intimacy: The play depicts various forms of love and intimacy between gay men, such as romantic love, sexual love, friendship love, and familial love. The play also shows how love can be a source of joy and pain, support and betrayal, healing and harm.

  • Self-acceptance and self-expression: The play depicts how gay men struggle to accept and express their true selves in a society that rejects and oppresses them. The play also shows how gay men find ways to affirm and celebrate their identity and sexuality through humor, art, culture, and community.

  • Politics and activism: The play depicts how gay men are involved in political and social movements that fight for their rights and dignity. The play also shows how gay men are affected by the policies and values of the government and the mainstream society.

  • Faith and spirituality: The play depicts how gay men relate to religion and spirituality in different ways. Some gay men find comfort and guidance in their faith, while others reject or question it. Some gay men create their own forms of spirituality, while others seek alternative sources of meaning and purpose.

The role of religion and spirituality in the play

The role of religion and spirituality in the play

Angels in America is a play that deals with religion and spirituality in various ways. The play features characters from different religious backgrounds and beliefs, such as Judaism, Mormonism, Christianity, and agnosticism. The play also incorporates elements from various religious traditions and texts, such as the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Kabbalah, and angelology. The play examines how religion and spirituality affect the characters and the themes of the play, such as:

  • Morality and ethics: The play explores how religion and spirituality shape the moral and ethical values and choices of the characters. The play also challenges the moral and ethical standards of some religious institutions and authorities, such as Roy Cohn and the Mormon Church.

  • Identity and belonging: The play explores how religion and spirituality influence the identity and belonging of the characters. The play also shows how some characters struggle to reconcile their religious identity with their sexual identity, such as Joe and Harper.

  • Hope and despair: The play explores how religion and spirituality provide hope and despair for the characters. The play also shows how some characters lose or find their faith in the face of suffering and death, such as Prior and Louis.

  • Meaning and purpose: The play explores how religion and spirituality offer meaning and purpose for the characters. The play also shows how some characters question or redefine their meaning and purpose in life, such as Prior and Harper.

The significance of the angels and their prophecy

Angels in America is a play that features angels as prominent characters and symbols. The angels are supernatural beings who claim to be messengers of God, but they are also flawed and conflicted creatures who have their own agenda. The angels have chosen Prior as their prophet, and they have given him a prophecy that he must deliver to humanity. The prophecy is that humans must stop moving, progressing, evolving, and mixing, because this causes God's pain and absence. The prophecy is based on the angels' nostalgia for a past state of harmony and stability, when they were close to God before he created humans. The prophecy is also a reaction to the changes and challenges that humans face in the modern world, such as AIDS, nuclear war, environmental degradation, globalization, migration, diversity, etc.

The angels and their prophecy are significant for several reasons:

  • They represent a critique of the conservative ideology that seeks to preserve the status quo and resist change.

  • They represent a challenge to the liberal ideology that values progress and innovation at any cost.

  • They represent a contrast to the human condition that is marked by movement, change, growth, and complexity.

  • They represent a test for Prior's character that forces him to make a choice between accepting or rejecting their message.

  • They represent a metaphor for Prior's illness that threatens to immobilize him physically and emotionally.

  • They represent a symbol for Prior's imagination that enables him to transcend his reality and create his own meaning.


How to access the play online

If you are interested in reading or watching Angels in America online, here are some options:

  • You can find a PDF version of Angels in America on various websites, such as Beth Shalom, Illinois State University, or Internet Archive.

  • You can watch the HBO miniseries adaptation of Angels in America on streaming platforms such as HBO, Amazon Prime Video, or Google Play.

  • You can listen to the audio drama adaptation of Angels in America on podcast platforms such as BBC Radio 4, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify.

Why you should read or watch Angels in America

Angels in America is a play that you should read or watch for many reasons, such as:

  • It is a masterpiece of American theater that combines drama, comedy, tragedy, and fantasy.

  • It is a historical and political play that reflects on the events and issues of the 1980s, but also resonates with the present and the future.

  • It is a personal and emotional play that explores the lives and experiences of diverse and complex characters, who face challenges and choices that are relevant to anyone.

  • It is a philosophical and spiritual play that examines the themes and questions of faith, morality, identity, sexuality, and change, that are essential to human existence.

  • It is a creative and imaginative play that uses magical realism and fantasy elements to create a rich and captivating world, that invites the audience to participate in the meaning-making process.


Here are some frequently asked questions about Angels in America:

  • Who wrote Angels in America?

Tony Kushner, an American playwright and screenwriter, who is also known for his other works such as A Bright Room Called Day, Homebody/Kabul, Caroline or Change, Munich, and Lincoln.

  • When was Angels in America written and performed?

The play was written between 1988 and 1991, and it was first performed in 1991 (Part One) and 1992 (Part Two) in various theaters in the United States and Europe. The play was also revived several times on Broadway and other venues, most recently in 2018 with a cast that included Andrew Garfield, Nathan Lane, Denise Gough, and Lee Pace.

  • What is the genre and style of Angels in America?

The play is a two-part epic that consists of seven hours of theater. The play is a mix of various genres and styles, such as historical drama, social satire, political thriller, domestic comedy, fantasy adventure, and religious allegory. The play uses magical realism and fantasy elements to create a rich and imaginative world that blends natural and supernatural phenomena


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