Angels in America

Angels in America

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Prior Walter Character Analysis

Arguably the protagonist of Angels in America, Prior Walter is a young homosexual man who contracts the AIDS virus. As his condition deteriorates, Prior faces a series of external and internal challenges. Prior’s boyfriend, Louis Ironson, leaves him out of fear for his own health, and Prior begins to experience a series of “visions” in which he’s confronted by the Angel of America. Throughout the play, Prior experiences intense self-doubt: he’s not sure whether his visions are mere hallucinations, a side effect of his AIDS, or proof that he’s a genuine prophet, meant to send the Angel of America’s message around the world. In one of the central scenes of Angels in America, Prior makes a long, impassioned plea for the inherent value of all life, whether it’s life lived in pain or in pleasure. As the play concludes, Prior has been living with AIDS for five years, but looks forward to the future with a strong sense of optimism, despite his uncertainty about what lies ahead.

Prior Walter Quotes in Angels in America

The Angels in America quotes below are all either spoken by Prior Walter or refer to Prior Walter . 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 1, Scene 7 Quotes

Harper Pitt: I don't understand this. If I didn't ever see you before and I don't think I did, then I don't think you should be here, in this hallucination, because in my experience the mind, which is where hallucinations come from, shouldn't be able to make up anything that wasn't there to start with, that didn't enter it from experience, from the real world. Imagination can't create anything new, can it? It only recycles bits and pieces from the world and reassembles them into visions . . . Am I making sense right now?
Prior Walter: Given the circumstances, yes.
Harper Pitt: So when we think we've escaped the unbearable ordinariness and, well, untruthfulness of our lives, it's really only the same old ordinariness and falseness rearranged into the appearance of novelty and truth. Nothing unknown is knowable.

Related Characters: Prior Walter (speaker), Harper Pitt (speaker)
Page Number: 32-33
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Harper Pitt experiences a bizarre, vivid hallucination in which she crosses paths with Prior Walter--a homosexual man whom she's never met before, and who's also having a vidi hallucination. During their hallucinated encounter, Prior and Harper discuss the nature of hallucination itself. Harper claims that hallucinations are just rearranged versions of the real world--in other words, one can't hallucinate anything that isn't already in the real world to begin with.

Harper's observations complicate the way we should interpret the dream sequences throughout the play. On one level, Kushner implies that the characters' dreams are just hallucinations and imagination--they're opportunities for the characters to mull over their real lives and reach surprising insights (many of the characters' epiphanies arrive in dreams, not waking life). This fits in with Harper's statements here. But on another level, there is a real fantastical element to the dream scenes. Harper and Prior have never met in real life, but they meet in this hallucination--the dream is producing something that didn't exist in either character's mind before.

Harper's observations about dreams also act as a kind of thesis statement for Angels in America itself. Kushner's play may be a work of fiction, and yet it's also a distillation of American culture during the age of AIDS. By watching the "fantasia" of the play, audiences can come to some surprising insights about their culture and their country.

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Millennium Approaches: Act 3, Scene 6 Quotes

Prior: Are you... a ghost, Lou?
Louis: No. Just spectral. Lost to myself. Sitting all day on cold park benches. Wishing I could be with you. Dance with me, babe...

Related Characters: Prior Walter (speaker), Louis Ironson (speaker)
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

In this famous dream sequence, Prior Walter reunites with his boyfriend, Louis Ironson. Louis has abandoned Prior because Prior has been diagnosed with AIDS, and Louis is frightened of contracting the disease himself. But in the realm of dreams, Louis is no longer afraid of Prior. Prior dreams of dancing with Louis--death and AIDS are no longer a danger for either one of them.

The passage is also a good example of how dreams can help humans escape from the pain of their day-to-day lives. At times, dreams help the characters confront reality with a new depth of insight. But here, the point isn't that Prior is gaining some new insight (although what Louis says about cold park benches is true)--rather, Prior dreams about Louis so that he can feel happier. Of course, it's tragic that Prior and Louis can safely engage in an act as simple as dancing only in the world of dreams. The very simplicity of their reunion reinforces how greatly AIDS has fractured and endangered the gay community.

Millennium Approaches: Act 3, Scene 7 Quotes

Greetings Prophet;
The Great Work begins:
The Messenger has arrived.

Related Characters: The Angel of America (speaker), Prior Walter
Related Symbols: Angels
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the first part of Angels in America, Prior Walter is visited by a mysterious figure, the Angel of America. We still have a lot of questions: why the Angel has come to Earth; why she's visiting Prior specifically; whether the Angel is "real," at least within the world of the play, etc.

In spite of the uncertainties surrounding the Angel's visit, her appearance reinforces the sense of prophecy and hope that's been a guiding theme of the play so far. Many of the play's characters feel a strong sense that something is going to happen, even if they have no idea what. So it's entirely appropriate that the play should end with "something" happening--an angel coming down to Earth, apparently from Heaven--even if we don't know what the angel's message will be.

Furthermore, the angel's presence reminds us of the ambiguity in Kushner's use of dream sequences. At times, dreams represent an escape for the characters; elsewhere, dreams help the characters address the problems of their waking lives with greater clarity and conviction. Which kind of dream is this? Or is it a dream at all? Kushner leaves us to wonder whether the angel is real and what effect it will have on Prior's life--and he also encourages us to feel the same vague sense of anticipation we've felt all along.

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 2, Scene 2 Quotes

Bored with His Angels, Bewitched by Humanity, In Mortifying imitation of You, his least creation, He would sail off on Voyages, no knowing where.

Related Characters: The Angel of America (speaker), Prior Walter
Related Symbols: Angels
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Angel of America paints a bizarre portrait of the supernatural world. The Angel claims that God created humans long ago, and immediately became enamored with them. Instead of paying attention to his angels, God spent all his time with human beings. The reason that God loved humans better than angels, the Angel claims, is that humans have the power of free will: they can choose who to love, where to go, and how to spend their time. Angels lack free will, and thus simply aren't very interesting.

The Angel's speech to Prior is an early sign that the Angel's message for Prior might not be an entirely friendly one. On the contrary, the Angel seems rather antagonistic to Prior and Prior's species. Thus, the Angel's behavior in this passage challenges some of the naive optimism that the characters felt earlier in the play (as well as the general idea that angels are trustworthy messengers of God--in fact these angels seem to be going behind God's back). Yes, an angel is going to deliver a great message to humanity--but there's no guarantee this message will be good.

It wasn't a dream. [...] I think it really happened. I'm a prophet.

Related Characters: Prior Walter (speaker)
Related Symbols: Angels
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Prior tells Belize about his visions of the Angel of America. Although Prior acknowledges that his visions might just be hallucinations, brought on by his lack of sleep and his ingestion of various painkillers, he also suggests that he really is a prophet, summoned by the angels to deliver an important message to the people of the world.

Prior's speech is important because it shows him struggling to believe in his own dreams. Prior isn't a fool--he admits to Belize that he might just be hallucinating the Angel of America. And yet Prior clearly wants to believe that he's a prophet--in a time of great misery and loneliness, he wants to believe that he's special; that the gods have chosen him to complete a great task. In short, Prior both does and doesn't believe in the Angel of America. One could say the same about the audience of Kushner's play: we of course acknowledge that the play is just a fiction, and yet we connect with the play's emotional and political insights, almost as if we are meant to be prophets, passing on Kushner's message.

Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 2 Quotes

PRIOR: I have a hobby now: haunting people. Fuck home. You wait here. I want to meet my replacement.
(Prior goes to Joe's door, opens it, steps in.)
Oh.
JOE: Yes, can I—
PRIOR: You look just like the dummy. She's right.
JOE: Who's right?
PRIOR: Your wife.
(Pause.)
JOE: What?
Do you know my—
PRIOR: NO.
JOE: You said my wife.
PRIOR: No I didn't.
JOE: Yes you did.
PRIOR: You misheard. I'm a Prophet.
JOE: What?
PRIOR: PROPHET PROPHET I PROPHESY I HAVE SIGHT I SEE.
What do you do?
JOE: I'm a clerk.
PRIOR: Oh big deal. A clerk. You what, you file things? Well you better be keeping a file on the hearts you break, that's all that counts in the end, you'll have bills to pay in the world to come, you and your friend, the Whore of Babylon.
(Little pause)
Sorry wrong room.

Related Characters: Prior Walter (speaker), Joe Pitt (speaker)
Page Number: 224-225
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Prior Walter tracks down Joe, the man with whom Louis has been conducting an affair after leaving Prior. Prior is understandably upset to be meeting his "replacement"--the fact that Louis has left him for a healthier, AIDS-free man just reinforces the fact that Prior doesn't have much longer to live.

The passage also emphasizes the connection between Prior's visions of the Angel of America and his relationship with Louis. As Belize has already pointed out, Prior seems to be imagining the Angel as a way of reconciling with Louis. As Belize suspected, Prior seems to be using his visions as a way of condemning Joe (he even calls Joe a "whore of Babylon," a reference to the Biblical embodiment of sin and sexuality), however clumsily. The scene--like so much of the play--is both tragic and comic: Prior's line, "Sorry, wrong room," is like the punchline of a joke, and yet the passage's message is deadly serious.

Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 5 Quotes

If [God] ever did come back, if He ever dared to show His face, or his Glyph or whatever in the Garden again. If after all this destruction, if after all the terrible days of this terrible century, He returned to see... how much suffering His abandonment had created, if all He has to offer is death, you should sue the bastard. [...] Sue the bastard for walking out. How dare He.

Related Characters: Prior Walter (speaker)
Related Symbols: Angels
Page Number: 275-276
Explanation and Analysis:

In the climactic scene of the play, Prior Walter is summoned (or perhaps just dreams he's been summoned) before a council of Angels. The Angels want Prior to spread death and disease all over the world--in other words, one could say, they want AIDS to wipe out the human race. The angels hope that by killing humans, they'll be able to summon God back to Heaven--he's been missing for some time.

Prior responds to the angels' pleas by telling them that their real "beef" is with God, for walking out on them, not human beings. But Prior does more than simply re-direct the angels' anger. By expressing his own anger with God, he's condemning the universe itself for allowing something as awful as the AIDS crisis (and other horrors of the 20th century, like the Holocaust, the Great Leap Forward, the Holodomor, etc.) to occur. More subtly, Prior's comments could be interpreted as a criticism of organized religions, especially Christianity, that argue that everything happens for a reason. If there is a God, Prior suggests, and if everything is a part of God's plan, then God should be sued.

By the same token, Prior's words suggest his exasperation with the very notion of prophecy--with the idea that people can be "chosen" by the angels and ordered to work God's plan on Earth. Prior no longer seems to believe that there's any pre-determined order to life. Things don't happen for any particular reason, and so the belief that prophecies must be fulfilled no longer holds any currency with Prior.

Epilogue Quotes

This disease will be the end of many of us, but not nearly all, and the dead will be commemorated and will struggle on with the living, and we are not going away. We won't die secret deaths anymore. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come.

Related Characters: Prior Walter (speaker)
Page Number: 290
Explanation and Analysis:

In the Epilogue to the play, Prior speaks directly to the audience. He claims that he's been living with AIDS for several years now, and doesn't know how much longer he's going to last. And yet Prior refuses to cower before the possibility of death. Instead, he speaks out--bravely and boldly--about his condition and his sexuality.

By having Prior speak directly to the audience (in an homage to the theater of Bertolt Brecht), Kushner suggests the political ramifications of his play. Kushner wants to use his play to make political points and provoke political engagement in the audience. Prior seems to urge the audience to go out and fight for AIDS research and homosexual rights--a mandate that many fans of the play have taken up. At the same time, Prior's speech seems to sum up many of the play's key themes. Prior has no idea what the future holds, but in spite of his uncertainty, he looks forward to the future with a cautious optimism. In the meantime, Prior will not hide behind fantasy or delusion. Instead, he will be a citizen--he and the other members of the gay community will use political methods to fight for themselves and their allies.

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Prior Walter Character Timeline in Angels in America

The timeline below shows where the character Prior Walter appears in Angels in America. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Millennium Approaches: Act 1, Scene 4
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Outside the synagogue, Louis Ironson (Sarah Ironson’s grandson) and a man named Prior Walter stand and talk. Louis never visited Sarah, he admits—she looked too much like his... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Prior tells Louis that Louis’s cousin Doris is a lesbian, and Louis is amazed. Prior laughs... (full context)
Millennium Approaches: Act 1, Scene 7
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Prior walks alone through a strange, dreamlike environment. He’s dressed in women’s clothing (similar to the... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Prior, speaking in a woman’s voice, comes across Harper Pitt. Harper demands, “What are you doing... (full context)
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...place, this reality is still based on things she’s already experienced in the real world. Prior nods sadly and says, “It’s all been done before.” (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Harper asks Prior if Prior can see anything about her. Prior says that he can: Harper is amazingly... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Prior then tells Harper something about himself: deep inside him, there’s a tiny part that’s entirely... (full context)
Millennium Approaches: Act 1, Scene 8
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
In another apartment, Louis and Prior sit in their bed, talking about Judaism and the law. The law, Louis tries to... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Prior tells Louis that his condition is deteriorating quickly—he has new lesions, kidney problems, and diarrhea.... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Reluctantly, Louis asks Prior if Prior loves him, and Prior says that he does. Louis asks Prior what he’d... (full context)
Millennium Approaches: Act 2, Scene 1
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
We open on Prior crawling on the floor of his apartment. Louis sees him and yells that he’s going... (full context)
Millennium Approaches: Act 2, 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
In a hospital, Prior lies in bed. Louis stands close by, talking to a nurse. The nurse, whose name... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...to go for a walk in the park to think. He tells Emily to tell Prior, “I had to go.” (full context)
Millennium Approaches: Act 2, Scene 5
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
In the hospital, Prior—now awake—gets a surprise visit from an old friend, a drag queen named Belize. Belize offers... (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... (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... (full context)
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...the room, the room darkens. A strange female voice fills the room. The voice tells Prior that she will reveal herself to Prior very soon. The voice claims that Prior will... (full context)
Millennium Approaches: Act 2, Scene 7
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
...Joe Pitt joins him. Joe asks Louis about his sick “friend” (whom we recognize as Prior), and Louis admits that he’s getting worse and worse. Louis notices that Joe, like Louis... (full context)
Millennium Approaches: Act 2, Scene 9
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
The stage is again divided into two halves. On one half, Prior sits in the hospital. Louis enters the room. On the other half, Joe enters his... (full context)
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Louis tells Prior that he’s moving out of their apartment. “The fuck you are,” Prior answers. Joe tells... (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
...and he tries to stop himself from walking there, but he can’t. Meanwhile Louis tells Prior that he can’t be with him anymore. Prior threatens to “beat the shit” out of... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...to go to Washington. She accuses Joe of “spinning a lie” his entire life. Meanwhile Prior accuses Louis of not loving him. Louis says “I love you,” but Prior snaps, “Who... (full context)
Millennium Approaches: Act 3, Scene 1
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Prior is sleeping in the hospital. A man dressed in medieval clothing wakes him up and... (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 I tells Prior about the bubonic plague—the greatest disease of his time. Those who suffered... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Prior’s ancestors pull him out from under his blankets and tell him they’re there to prepare... (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
...liberalism in America. As he speaks, the other half of the stage lights up, revealing Prior in the hospital, being treated by Emily. (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
...that black people hate Jews. On the other side of the stage, Emily moves around Prior, treating his wounds. (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.” Belize ignores this and tells Louis... (full context)
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
In the hospital, Emily asks Prior how he’s feeling. Prior tells her that he’s feeling better, less nauseous, and more energetic.... (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 tells Emily that he fears that something is “plummeting” to earth to hit him. Emily... (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 tell Prior that he... (full context)
Millennium Approaches: Act 3, Scene 6
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Prior wakes up in his apartment to find Prior I and Prior II standing over him,... (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 angrily tells his ancestors, “fuck off!” Instead, Prior I and Prior II urge Prior to... (full context)
Millennium Approaches: Act 3, 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
Prior wakes up in his apartment, terrified and alone. He crawls on the floor, too weak... (full context)
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Back in his apartment, Prior begins to hear a strange sound—it’s the sound of wings beating. He’s frightened of the... (full context)
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Suddenly, the roof of Prior’s apartment caves in, covering Prior with plaster and dust. A beautiful angel flies in, smiling... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 1, Scene 1
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
The scene fades to Prior’s apartment, where he’s still being greeted by the Angel. The Angel roars that Prior is... (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... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...looks at the patient’s name, murmuring, “The lord moves in mysterious ways.” Alone, Belize calls Prior back and tells him that Roy Cohn—a conservative icon—is being treated for AIDS. (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... (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 is less... (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... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 2, Scene 2
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
Scene II transitions from Scene I: it’s a flashback to three weeks before, when Prior had his first encounter with the angel. The Angel tells Prior that she’s the Angel... (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
The Angel of America pays no attention to Prior’s complaints. She tells Prior to remove the “sacred implements” from their hiding place. Prior says... (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
The tiles in Prior’s kitchen break. Prior complains that the Angel is releasing fluorocarbons into the air, which is... (full context)
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
In his now-ruined kitchen, Prior finds a leather suitcase. Inside the suitcase, there’s a pair of spectacles. Prior puts on... (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
The Angel orders Prior to remove a book from the suitcase. Prior finds a large, shiny book that appears... (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 outside the funeral, Prior explains that Angels have eight vaginas—they’re hermaphrodites—and they live in Heaven, which is a city... (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 in Prior’s apartment in the flashback, the Angel of America explains that God has abandoned the angels... (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 what he thinks of Prior’s dream-prophecy. Belize suggests that Prior is projecting his feelings for... (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
In the flashback, the Angel tells Prior to spread this prophecy: “Stop moving.” Prior asks the Angel if she wants him dead.... (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 the Angel’s... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 3, Scene 2
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Hannah and Prior enter the scene together. Hannah goes to start the diorama (a moving theater piece). A... (full context)
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Prior tells Harper that he’s come here to conduct research on angels, since he’s just had... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
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The scene fades, so that we can still see Prior and Harper looking at the stage. On the stage, however, we see Louis and Joe,... (full context)
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Prior is astounded to see Louis in the diorama, but Harper calmly tells him that Louis... (full context)
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...a regular mannequin has replaced Joe. Hannah criticizes Harper for being obnoxious, and suggests that Prior leave the room while she repairs the diorama. Prior suggests that he’s seen Harper before.... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 3, Scene 3
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...matter. Joe claims he loves Louis. Louis abruptly tells Joe that he wants to see Prior again—he can’t forgive himself for leaving Prior behind. (full context)
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Joe seems heartbroken by Louis’s need to see Prior. He tells Louis that he’ll do anything for him. He begins to take off his... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 3, Scene 5
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On the other half of the stage, Prior walks into his apartment. The Mormon Mother tells Harper that Joe will return to Harper... (full context)
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...Joe on the beach. Louis walks away from Joe, to a phone booth. He calls Prior, who’s still in his apartment, and tells Prior that he wants to see him. (full context)
Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 1
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On the other half of the stage, Louis meets up with Prior in a park. Prior, now dressed all in black and walking with a cane, tells... (full context)
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Back in the park, Prior is still furious with Louis for seeing another man. Louis tries to explain: he feels... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 2
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Prior and Belize stand in Joe Pitt’s office building. Belize suggests that they leave, but Prior... (full context)
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While Belize waits outside, Prior confronts Joe. He tells Joe, “I’m a prophet.” Joe is confused, but Prior continues to... (full context)
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Joe rushes outside, where he finds Prior and Belize. Joe immediately recognizes Belize as Cohn’s nurse—something Belize denies unconvincingly. Prior and Belize... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 3
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...statue in Central Park. Belize stands with Louis, and Louis notes that the fountain is Prior’s favorite place in the park. Louis asks Belize how Prior is doing, and Belize says... (full context)
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...begins to walk out. Louis shouts that Belize is just jealous of Louis for stealing Prior away from him. Louis then screams that he hates himself, and begins to cry. Belize... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 4
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After Joe leaves the Visitors’ Center, Prior walks in. He exclaims, “He’s a Mormon, too?” Hannah asks Prior if he knows Joe,... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 6
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In a hospital, Prior is sitting with his nurse, Emily, and Hannah. Emily tells Prior that he’s losing weight... (full context)
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Emily leaves Prior with Hannah for a moment. Prior confesses to Hannah that he saw an angel—he’s afraid... (full context)
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Hannah tells Prior about the experience of finding out that Joe was gay. She finds homosexuality odd and... (full context)
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Prior asks Hannah a question: can prophets refuse the missions God has given them? Hannah admits... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 1
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We return to the hospital, late at night. Prior wakes up to find Hannah sitting next to him. Prior tells Hannah that the Angel... (full context)
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Hannah tells Prior to wrestle the Angel and say, “I will not go except thee bless me.” The... (full context)
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After Prior has climbed the ladder, the Angel of America turns to Hannah. Although Hannah is visibly... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 2
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This scene takes place in Heaven—Prior, now dressed in brightly colored robes, has climbed the ladder. Heaven looks a lot like... (full context)
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As Prior walks through Heaven, he sees Harper, playing with Little Sheba, the cat Prior lost in... (full context)
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Prior points out the scenery, comparing it with San Francisco. The real San Francisco, he tells... (full context)
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Suddenly, the scenery fades—Prior is standing in a large room, facing the Angel of America, who greets him as... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 5
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Suddenly, Prior appears, accompanied by the Angel of America. The Angel of America announces that she’s brought... (full context)
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Prior explains that God is never coming back, either to Earth or to the angels. God... (full context)
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Prior tells the angels that he wants to be healthy again. He begs the angels to... (full context)
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The angels turn to look at one another, and as they confer, Prior walks away, slowly. While Prior walks away, the angels make a mysterious sign in Prior’s... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 6
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Prior walks through the decaying streets of Heaven. He notices Rabbi Isador Chemelwitz and Sarah Ironson... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 7
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Prior finds himself lying in bed, surrounded by Belize, Emily, and Hannah. He tells his friends... (full context)
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...the room—he’s still horribly bruised from his fight with Joe. Hannah pushes past Louis, and Prior calls to her, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Hannah replies, “That’s... (full context)
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Prior and Louis are alone in the hospital room. Louis tells Prior that he wants to... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 8
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On the other half of the stage, we’re back in the hospital with Louis and Prior. Prior pauses and says, “I love you, Louis, but you can’t come back. Not ever.” (full context)
Epilogue
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It is 1990, and Prior, Louis, Belize, and Hannah sit by the Bethesda Fountain, talking about the recent fall of... (full context)
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As Belize, Hannah, and Louis bicker, Prior stands up and addresses the audience directly. “This is my favorite place in the whole... (full context)
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Prior points to the angel statue over the fountain. He notes that he loves angel statues... (full context)
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Prior asks Hannah to tell the audience about the Millennium. When the “true” Millennium comes—not just... (full context)
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For the second time, Prior steps forward from his friends and addresses the audience directly. He says that the Bethesda... (full context)