Angels in America

Angels in America

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AZT Symbol Icon

In Kushner’s play (and in real life, at least in the late 80s and early 90s), AZT is a “miracle drug,” rumored to be able to save AIDS patients from death by staving off the effects of a ravaged immune system. Although AZT seems to be effective for some AIDS patients, such as Prior Martin (who’s still alive five years after contracting AIDS), it’s useless for others, such as Roy Cohn (who takes AZT around the clock but dies anyway). In this sense, AZT is a poignant symbol of the uncertainty of life, but it’s also a symbol of how power, wealth, and privilege affect every aspect of life, even issues (like healthcare) that should be universal. Thus the powerful, conservative Ray Cohn is able to hoard a huge supply of AZT for himself, while thousands of “outcasts” from society (particularly poor, gay minorities) are denied access to this same “miracle drug.”

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AZT Symbol Timeline in Angels in America

The timeline below shows where the symbol AZT appears in Angels in America. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
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
...is conducting—some of the patients in the hospital are being given placebo pills instead of AZT, a potentially lifesaving AIDS drug. Cohn seems suspicious that Belize is so knowledgeable about medicine.... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...Heller. Cohn asks Martin Heller to arrange for Cohn to receive an immediate dosage of AZT. When Heller pauses, Cohn tells Heller that if he doesn’t cooperate, he’ll tell “the world”... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 3, Scene 1
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 a private fridge in his hospital bed. Belize is impressed—he points... (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 tells Louis to keep his voice down—they’re there to steal Cohn’s enormous stash of AZT pills. Louis isn’t sure why Belize is asking Louis for his help. Belize explains that... (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
...says goodbye to Prior—he offers Prior a “gift from a bad fairy”: Cohn’s stash of AZT. Prior studies the pills. He knows they can save his life, but they’ll also make... (full context)