Angels in America

Angels in America

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
A real-life Soviet spy who in the 1950s was convicted for treason, along with her husband, Julius Rosenberg, and sentenced to death by electrocution. Ethel Rosenberg is often considered a symbol for the barbarism of America’s involvement in the Cold War: Ethel was killed for her espionage (and even this was never definitively proven) despite the fact that she was a mother of two children. In the play, it’s revealed that her death was ensured by Roy Cohn. As a result, Ethel’s ghost—perhaps just one of Cohn’s hallucinations—haunts Cohn during his final days of life. (It should also be note that Kushner specifies that this character is to be played by the same actor who plays Hannah Pitt.)

Ethel Rosenberg Quotes in Angels in America

The Angels in America quotes below are all either spoken by Ethel Rosenberg or refer to Ethel Rosenberg . 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 5 Quotes

Yes. Yes. You have heard of Ethel Rosenberg. Yes. Maybe you even read about her in the history books. If it wasn't for me, Joe, Ethel Rosenberg would be alive today, writing some personal-advice column for Ms. magazine. She isn't. Because during the trial, Joe, I was on the phone every day, talking with the judge— Every day, doing what I do best, talking on the telephone, making sure that timid Yid nebbish on the bench did his duty to America, to history. That sweet unprepossessing woman, two kids, boo-hoo-hoo, reminded us all of our little Jewish mamas—she came this close to getting life; I pleaded till I wept to put her in the chair. Me. I did that. I would have fucking pulled the switch if they'd have let me. Why? Because I fucking hate traitors. Because I fucking hate communists. Was it legal? Fuck legal. Am I a nice man? Fuck nice. They say terrible things about me in the Nation. Fuck the Nation. You want to be Nice, or you want to be Effective? Make the law, or subject to it. Choose.

Related Characters: Roy Cohn (speaker), Joe Pitt , Ethel Rosenberg
Page Number: 113-114
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Roy Cohn reveals the truth about his career. As a young man, Cohn was instrumental int he execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg--the two Soviet spies who were executed for supposedly stealing American secrets about nuclear technology. Cohn conspired with the judge to ensure that the Rosenbergs would be sentenced to death for their actions (the only time in American history that spies were executed during peacetime).

Cohn's pronouncement is devastating for Joe, to whom Cohn is speaking. Joe has always thought of Cohn as a hero--the very embodiment of Joe's faith in law, justice, and traditional moral values. Now, Joe sees that Cohn isn't anything of the kind: he's an immoral, bloodthirsty man who's perfectly willing to break the law to ensure the death of a mother of two children (whose guilt was in question in the first place). As a supposed defender of family values and wholesome conservatism, Cohn instead shows himself to be morally bankrupt.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Angels in America quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Get the entire Angels in America LitChart as a printable PDF.
Angels in america.pdf.medium

Ethel Rosenberg Character Timeline in Angels in America

The timeline below shows where the character Ethel Rosenberg appears in Angels in America. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Millennium Approaches: Act 3, Scene 5
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...lawyer—even greater than making presidents or making a lot of money—was ensuring the execution of Ethel Rosenberg . If it wasn’t for his legal intervention, Cohn claims, Ethel Rosenberg would still be... (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 lies on the ground. Suddenly, a woman appears before Cohn—Cohn greets this woman as Ethel Rosenberg . (Joe can’t see her). Ethel says that Cohn looks sickly. She makes fun of... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 3, Scene 1
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
...a “shitty little committee.” As Cohn claims that his records were “lost in a fire,” Ethel Rosenberg walks into the room. Cohn keeps arguing with the person on the other end of... (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 Ethel Rosenberg sits in the room, Belize walks in, ordering Cohn to put down the phone so... (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 is now alone with Ethel Rosenberg . Ethel boasts that she’s going to watch Cohn’s disbarment hearing, which is coming up... (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
...stop him. Belize only says, “I’m the shadow on your grave.” At the same moment, Ethel Rosenberg appears onstage, standing beside Belize. (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
...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, calling it... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 1
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 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
In the hospital, Roy Cohn lies in bed, singing softly. Suddenly, he notices Ethel Rosenberg sitting beside him. Cohn boasts that he’s going to die soon—luckily, just before the disbarment... (full context)
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Cohn suddenly speaks up. He whispers, “Ma?” and seems to think that Ethel Rosenberg is his mother. He begs her to sing to him, saying that he’s scared and... (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
Ethel Rosenberg calls Cohn’s name. He doesn’t answer. Then, suddenly, Cohn sits up and shouts, “I’m not... (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
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...Louis to try to deliver a Kaddish. Louis delivers one, very hesitantly. As he falters, Ethel Rosenberg appears in the room, visible to Louis but not Belize. Ethel delivers the Kaddish, and... (full context)