4: Images, depictions of Jacob wrestling the angel from the Gutenberg Bible, 1558; Rembrandt, 1659; Alexandre-Louis Leloir, 1865; and Gustav Moreau, 1878.
The biblical episode of Jacob wrestling with the Angel, from Genesis 32:22-31, has inspired artists for centuries. It is also referenced several times in Angels in America. Prior is repeatedly visited by angels and wrestles with one of them. Joe tells Harper how he was fascinated with the story as a child; he sees the story as a metaphor for his own struggle with his homosexuality and his Mormon faith.
Suggested Activity: Ask students to compare and contrast the four images of Jacob wrestling with the angel from Gutenberg, Rembrandt, Leloir, and Moreau. Have students discuss in small groups: what are the similarities and differences between these artistic works? How do these images relate to the themes of the play? Why might a painting of Jacob and the angel have had such a strong impact on Joe?
Sources: Jacob struggles with the angel, from the Gutenberg Bible, woodcut print, 1558, Wikipedia.
Rembrandt, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, oil on canvas, 1659, Wikipedia.
Alexander Louis Leloir, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, oil on canvas, 1865, Wikipedia.
Gustav Moreau, Jacob and the Angel, 1878, Wikipedia.