Angels in America

Angels in America

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Belize / Norman Ariago Character Analysis

Belize is an openly gay black man who is fond of transvestism (dressing as a woman), and who also works as a nurse at the hospital where Roy Cohn spends his final days. Belize is intelligent and highly insightful, and there are many points throughout the play where characters go to Belize for interpretations of their dreams and visions. Like Louis and Prior—the latter of whom was once his lover—Belize is extremely liberal in his politics. Yet in part because of his racial identity, Belize seems more concerned with the day-to-day realities of the human experience than with lofty political rhetoric or “grand theories.” He’s an intensely loyal man, especially to other gay people—indeed, he even helps out Roy Cohn, an openly homophobic man, simply because Cohn is secretly gay.

Belize / Norman Ariago Quotes in Angels in America

The Angels in America quotes below are all either spoken by Belize / Norman Ariago or refer to Belize / Norman Ariago . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Theatre Communications Group edition of Angels in America published in 2013.
Millennium Approaches: Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

I've thought about it for a very long time, and I still don't understand what love is. Justice is simple. Democracy is simple. Those things are unambivalent. But love is very hard. And it goes bad for you if you violate the hard law of love.

Related Characters: Belize / Norman Ariago (speaker)
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of his conversation with Louis, Belize offers his own take on modern America. Belize brushes aside Louis's babble about politics and justice--such matters are simple and "unambivalent," he claims. Belize is more interested in the nature of love--something that can't be so easily understood.

Although Belize doesn't go into much depth here, his words effectively rebut everything Louis has just said. Louis sees the world in vague, abstract terms like "right," "wrong," and "politics." Louis thinks his intelligence and grasp of law will help him navigate his way through the challenges of the AIDS era. But in doing so, Louis neglects the human side of the AIDS crisis. Belize--less educated but more sensitive--sees AIDS as a challenge to humanity's capacity to love. AIDS isn't a time for easy, rigid rules of right and wrong; on the contrary, AIDS provokes individual moral dilemmas, and Belize (a nurse) sees these moral dilemmas all the time. Is it right to show love and sympathy for an AIDS victim by hugging them and feeding them, even if such behavior endangers one's own life? Is it right to care for an AIDS victim who's spent his entire life condemning homosexuals? These questions have no easy answer, and yet they're clearly guided by the ambiguous principle of love--not, as Louis believes, the hard and fast rules of politics and law.

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Perestroika: Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

That ludicrous spectacle in there, just a parody of the funeral of someone who really counted. We don't; faggots; we're just a bad dream the world is having, and the real world's waking up. And he's dead.

Related Characters: Prior Walter (speaker), Belize / Norman Ariago
Related Symbols: Funerals
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Prior and Belize have just come from a funeral for an AIDS-diagnosed drag queen they both knew. In contrast to the funeral in the first part of the play, the drag queen's funeral is glitzy, glamorous, and defiantly optimistic--despite the tragedy of the occasion. Prior finds the spectacle of the funeral to be disgusting and indecent--how dare the mourners sing and have a good time?

Although Prior dislikes the funeral, Kushner evidently doesn't agree with him (as is shown in Belize's response to Prior). For Kushner, the only appropriate response to the misery unleashed by the AIDs crisis is to defy it--to respond to misery and death with life, love, and laughter. The funeral is, in short, a stand-in for Kushner's play itself: a big, over-the-top spectacle that uses humor and fantasy to address deadly serious social issues. The very fact of Kushner's play's existence proves that Kushner favors the "ludicrous spectacle" that Prior criticizes.

Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 3 Quotes

I hate America, Louis. I hate this country. It’s just big ideas, and stories, and people dying, and people like you. The white cracker who wrote the national anthem knew what he was doing. He set the word 'free' to a note so high nobody can reach it. That was deliberate. Nothing on Earth sounds less like freedom to me. You come with me to room 1013 over at the hospital, I'll show you America. Terminal, crazy and mean. I live in America, Louis, that’s hard enough, I don’t have to love it. You do that. Everybody’s got to love something.

Related Characters: Belize / Norman Ariago (speaker), Louis Ironson
Page Number: 230
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Belize tells Louis that he hates America. Belize is speaking somewhat metaphorically--he certainly doesn't seem to despise the idea of America; the idea of a country in which everybody is free and equal, protected by the same laws and the same authorities. But Belize knows perfectly well that such an idea is just that--an idea, an illusion. Where Louis naively believes that America's courts and congresses protect all races and sexual orientations equally, Belize knows better. The law does not apply equally to everyone, contrary to what patriots claim: heterosexuals are better taken care of than homosexuals; whites are better protected than blacks, etc. The idea of America is a sinister fable, designed to hide the concrete facts of racism and homophobia in the country--and nobody who's in touch with the real world, Belize implies, could believe in such an idea.

Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 3 Quotes

He was a terrible person. He died a hard death. So maybe... A queen can forgive her vanquished foe. It isn't easy, it doesn't count if it's easy, it's the hardest thing. Forgiveness. Which is maybe where love and justice finally meet. Peace, at last. Isn't that what the Kaddish asks for?

Related Characters: Belize / Norman Ariago (speaker), Roy Cohn
Page Number: 265-266
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Belize mourns the death of his patient, Roy Cohn. At the end of his life, Cohn continued to deny his homosexuality and condemn liberals and homosexuals of all kinds--including Belize himself. And yet Belize asks Louis to say a Kaddish for Roy--a Jewish prayer designed to honor his life and his soul.

Previously, Belize has taken care of Cohn out of a sense of obligation (his Hippocratic Oath as a nurse). But now, Belize is going above and beyond, honoring Cohn for the purely moral reason that he wants to wish Cohn well and forgive Cohn for his evildoing. In many ways, Belize is the most loving and compassionate character in the play: he has the strength to show love and respect for people like Cohn, whom he has every reason to despise. Where other characters respond to the AIDs crisis with selfishness and cruelty, Belize responds by showing his courage and capacity to love others--living out his philosophy that life is about people, not principles.

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Belize / Norman Ariago Character Timeline in Angels in America

The timeline below shows where the character Belize / Norman Ariago appears in Angels in America. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Millennium Approaches: Act 2, Scene 5
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
...the hospital, Prior—now awake—gets a surprise visit from an old friend, a drag queen named Belize. Belize offers Prior an ointment—“not Western medicine,” Prior mutters. Belize claims to be a health... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Prior asks Belize if he’s heard from Louis. Prior explains that it’s been a long time since Louis... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Prior tells Belize that he’s attracted to one of his male nurses—the nurse gives him an erection. Belize... (full context)
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
As soon as Belize leaves the room, the room darkens. A strange female voice fills the room. The voice... (full context)
Millennium Approaches: Act 3, Scene 2
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Louis and Belize sit in a coffee shop. Louis is talking very quickly about the state of liberalism... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Louis goes on talking, while Belize looks impatient. Louis claims that the U.S. is unique in the world, in that its... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Louis suggests that Belize hates him because he’s abandoned Prior. Louis claims that he still loves Prior—he’s just “ambivalent.”... (full context)
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...was open casket—Prior is frightened of catching a disease. Back in the cafe, Louis asks Belize how Prior’s doing, and Belize tells him that Prior is doing horribly. (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Louis tells Belize that he misses Prior horribly, but he’s frightened of getting sick. Louis tells Belize to... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 1, Scene 5
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Immediately after seeing the Angel, Prior wakes up in his bed. Prior calls Belize—working late at a hospital—to tell that he’s had a wet dream—a rarity, given his medical... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Henry shows Belize the paperwork for a new, emergency patient. Belize says that Henry has made a mistake—this... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 1, Scene 6
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Belize goes to treat Cohn, who’s lying in bed in the hospital. Cohn yells for Belize... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Belize stands over Cohn, listening as Cohn talks about his life and his experiences. Cohn boasts... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Cohn listens in amazement as Belize tells him how to survive. When Belize falls silent, Cohn asks, “Do you hate me?”... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 2, Scene 1
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The scene opens at a funeral, where Prior and Belize are in attendance. Many of the other attendees are dressed in drag or flamboyant clothes.... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Outside the church, Belize and Prior walk away. Belize reminisces about the deceased, whom he describes as “divine.” Prior... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Prior reminds Belize of his wet dream—i.e., his encounter with the angel. Prior claims that his encounter with... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 2, Scene 2
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Back at the funeral, Belize tells Prior what he thinks of Prior’s dream-prophecy. Belize suggests that Prior is projecting his... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Back at the funeral, Belize tells Prior that he’s frightened for Prior: he’s not thinking clearly. Belize also disagrees with... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 3, Scene 1
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
As Ethel Rosenberg sits in the room, Belize walks in, ordering Cohn to put down the phone so he can take his pills.... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Cohn boasts to Belize that he treats his disease with his own supply of AZT, which he keeps in... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Belize asks Cohn again and again for pills, and Cohn refuses, calling Belize a “nigger” and... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 3, Scene 4
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
In the hospital, Belize wakes up Roy Cohn so that he can take his pills. Cohn cusses out Belize... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Cohn, still high on morphine, raves and mutters, and Belize doesn’t try to stop him. Belize only says, “I’m the shadow on your grave.” At... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 3, Scene 5
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...diorama are walking through Brooklyn Heights, but everyone from the previous scene (Joe, Louis, Cohn, Belize, and Ethel Rosenberg) is still onstage. The Mormon Mother points out the skyline of Manhattan,... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 1
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Belize rushes into the room and pulls Cohn off Joe. He instructs Joe to throw away... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Back in the hospital, Cohn asks Belize for his real name. Belize explains that his real name is Norman Ariago. As Belize... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
As Cohn speaks, Ethel Rosenberg materializes in the hospital room, smiling faintly. Belize cannot see her. (full context)
Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 2
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Prior and Belize stand in Joe Pitt’s office building. Belize suggests that they leave, but Prior tells Belize... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
While Belize waits outside, Prior confronts Joe. He tells Joe, “I’m a prophet.” Joe is confused, but... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Joe rushes outside, where he finds Prior and Belize. Joe immediately recognizes Belize as Cohn’s nurse—something Belize denies unconvincingly. Prior and Belize try to... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 3
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
We’re at the Bethesda Fountain—the huge angel statue in Central Park. Belize stands with Louis, and Louis notes that the fountain is Prior’s favorite place in the... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Belize begins to walk out. Louis shouts that Belize is just jealous of Louis for stealing... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 6
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...to stay with him for a little while, until his friend (whom we recognize as Belize) comes to pick him up. Hannah sighs and agrees. She tells Prior that an angel... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 9
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...singing for him, and laughs hysterically. Then, Cohn falls back into his bed. He finds Belize standing over him, and whispers, “In my next life, I wanna be an octopus.” With... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 3
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Belize and Louis sneak into Cohn’s hospital room. Belize tells Louis to keep his voice down—they’re... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Belize forces Louis to try to deliver a Kaddish. Louis delivers one, very hesitantly. As he... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
After Louis finishes his prayer, Belize crams Louis’s bag with AZT pills and thanks him for his help. (full context)
Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 7
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Prior finds himself lying in bed, surrounded by Belize, Emily, and Hannah. He tells his friends that he’s had a bizarre dream. Emily notes... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...of strangers.” Hannah replies, “That’s a stupid thing to do,” and walks out the door. Belize also says goodbye to Prior—he offers Prior a “gift from a bad fairy”: Cohn’s stash... (full context)
Epilogue
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
It is 1990, and Prior, Louis, Belize, and Hannah sit by the Bethesda Fountain, talking about the recent fall of the Berlin... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
As Belize, Hannah, and Louis bicker, Prior stands up and addresses the audience directly. “This is my... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Louis tells Hannah and Belize that “big theories” aren’t big enough to encompass the whole world. Hannah disagrees—you need some... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...appeared. When the Romans sacked Jerusalem, the fountain turned dry forever. Louis then “taps in” Belize to explain the history of the fountain of Bethesda: before the Romans sacked Jerusalem, suffering... (full context)
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...in Jerusalem. When this happens, Hannah will take her friends to bathe there. Louis and Belize bicker about the Israel-Palestine debate. (full context)