Study Guide

Agnes of God

by John Pielmeier

Agnes of God Themes

Themes and Meanings (Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The important themes and meaning of Agnes of God emerge largely in the private reflections of the characters throughout the play and revolve around the questions of faith, sanity and innocence, and the sanctity of religious life. In addition to the questions raised about the line between faith and obsession, and about miracles, major themes of this play include the ways in which one can be innocent despite blood on one’s hands and the impulse to conflate, or collapse specific events, ideas, or people into one influential symbol that affects choices about belief. For Agnes, this image is that of the Mother—her mother, Mother Miriam, the Virgin Mary, the Lady, all of whom “speak” to Agnes in real and imagined voices and whom she seeks to identify with, please, and serve. She is simultaneously saint and sinner, being rewarded and punished, punishing herself to exorcize the sins from her body, which, from her experiences with her mother and religious indoctrination, can only be sinful, ugly, fat, or made beautiful through suffering. The blood that pours from her body symbolizes both punishment and fulfillment.