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Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches

Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches


by Tony Kushner

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Tony Kushner really busts the seams with his epic Angels in America. It just doesn't fit at all into the classic plot analysis. Part of the issue is that it's hard to analyze Millennium Approaches separately from Perestroika. Another issue is that Millennium Approaches seems to have a few mini climaxes, instead of building to one large climax, and then petering off into a denouement and conclusion. Still, we'll try to fill in some details where they're relevant.

Initial Situation

The initial situation for our two sets of couples – Prior and Louis, Joe and Harper – doesn't last long. If we were to describe an initial situation for each pair, though, we'd say that Prior and Louis seem to be in a happy, committed relationship, while Joe and Harper are in an unhappy, but relatively stable relationship.


Quickly, a conflict arises in each couple's relationship. Prior tells Louis that he has AIDS, which really terrifies Louis. Joe tells Harper about his new job offer, but she has no interest in moving to Washington, DC, with him.


Both of the relationships in the play become more strained as the play goes on. Louis just can't seem to cope with Prior's increasingly serious illness and the deterioration of his heath. When Prior winds up in the hospital, Louis is clearly contemplating leaving his lover but feels horribly guilty about it. Meanwhile, Harper becomes increasingly suspicious that Joe is gay, though Joe refuses to admit it.


This play seems to have a few mini climaxes:

  1. Louis tells Prior that he's moved out. At this point, he's completely abandoned his sick lover. Yikes. Prior (justifiably) flips out and refuses to forgive Louis.
  2. Joe admits to his wife and mother that he is gay. Sure, we knew this was coming, but it's still a BIG deal. At this point, his relationship with his wife is over.
  3. An angel busts through Prior's roof and calls him a prophet. Enough said.


The play ends on a note of suspense. Really, we have a lot of questions: What's the deal with the angel? What's all this talk of Prior being a prophet? What the heck is the "Great Work" that's about to begin? (3.7.47). What will happen between Louis and Joe? I guess we'll just have to read Part Two: Perestroika to find out.

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