Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 342
Agnes of God is a three-person play by John Pielmeier.
Dr. Martha Livingstone is a psychiatrist in her forties. She is appointed by a court to evaluate the mental sanity of a novice nun accused of killing her newborn baby. She must determine if the act was intentional murder or a result of insanity. Dr. Livingstone is intelligent and determined. She was raised Catholic but is now an atheist and seems to distrust religion, although some moments have her questioning her beliefs. At times she is a fierce, hard-pressed investigator, and other moments show her as nurturing and protective. The character covers a full range of emotions and is on stage the whole time. She is a smoker, but stops smoking in the second act because she becomes so involved with Agnes.
Sister Agnes is a novice nun in her twenties. Agnes is found bleeding and unconscious, and the body of a newborn baby strangled by the umbilical cord is discarded in the wastebasket. Agnes claims to have no knowledge of the baby, and then later claims it was a virgin birth and the baby comes from God. Agnes looks and sounds almost angelic. She has an outward innocence and simplicity, but below the surface she is plagued by childhood abuse. Agnes sings during the play.
Mother Miriam Ruth, approximately in her sixties, is the Reverend Mother of the convent. She also happens to be Agnes's aunt. As the Reverend Mother and her aunt, Miriam is very protective of Agnes. Agnes moves to the convent when her abusive mother (Miriam's sister) dies. Miriam's sister kept Agnes isolated, and it is called into question whether Miriam is doing the same. Before becoming a nun, Miriam was unhappily married with two daughters. Miriam sees Agnes as innocent, and comes into conflict with Dr. Livingstone during the investigation. She comes off as tightly wound and decisive.
Dr. Livingstone, Agnes, and Mother Miriam are the three characters that appear in the play, although there are other characters mentioned (such as Agnes's mother and the other nuns).