Study Guide

Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches What's Up With the Ending?

By Tony Kushner

What's Up With the Ending?

The ending of Millennium Approaches, the first part of Angels in America, is the cliffhanger of all cliffhangers. Part One comes to its thrilling conclusion when the angel crashes through the ceiling of AIDS victim Prior Walter's bedroom.

There has been much foreshadowing and build-up to her arrival. A flaming book, a ghostly herald or two, and the angel's own disembodied voice have all warned Prior that this messenger is coming to have a word with him. Of course, none of these cryptic, heavenly messages have prepared Prior for the awesome spectacle of a real angel, plummeting from space, bashing through the roof of his apartment, and chanting, "Greetings Prophet; The Great Work begins: The Messenger has arrived" (3.7.47).

But what, oh what, could it mean? It seems like the angel is saying that Prior is a prophet of some kind, but neither the audience nor Prior knows what exactly he's supposed to prophesize. Apparently he's supposed to begin some kind massive task, but it's not clear what it is. The angel calls herself a messenger, but, as of yet, her message it totally unclear. We're not even sure she's really there; after all, Prior has worried for the whole play that he's going crazy. Is the angel just a hallucination caused by Prior's disease, or is she a genuine divine being come to pay a visit?

The destruction wreaked by the angel's arrival could possibly be seen as symbolic of the destruction of both Prior's relationship with his ex-boyfriend, Louis, and of the splitting of Joe Pitt and his wife, Harper. More than anything, though, this thrilling conclusion leaves us wanting more. Which is a great thing, since we've got a whole other play to watch after this one. Check out Part Two: Perestroika to find out if all these questions are answered.

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