I can say without a doubt that I have never read anything quite like The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. It is my favorite of all the plays we have read in this class. I cannot think of any Christian-themed works that look at the religion with such honesty, creativity and humor.
Take that Henrietta’s opening monologue. Boy, does that pack a punch. I went to Sunday school when I was younger and have been attending Catholic schools since I was 12. I always remember learning that Judas was a cowardly traitor that deserved no sympathy. I don’t think I was even introduced to the idea that Judas’ betrayal may have been part of a bigger plan until I was much older. Regardless of one’s personal views of Judas Iscariot, no one ever thinks of the impact of Judas’ actions on anyone else (besides Jesus). That’s why it was so clever of Guirgis to include Henrietta’s monologue. I can only imagine how gut-wrenching it is to watch this monologue be delivered. Especially that last line, “If my son is in Hell, then there is no Heaven. If my son sits in Hell, there is no God.” What an interesting way for us to view Judas. Not as history’s ultimate traitor, but son to this poor woman.
I was not expecting a play about Judas Iscariot to immediately spin him as a sympathetic character, but I am glad it did so. Moments like this are what sucked me into this play. Another great example of strong characters I found was that of Monica. First of all, let me state the obvious here in saying that I worship her sass. But she can be running her mouth one line, and the next line she is telling a heartfelt about how catatonic Judas was, immediately following his betrayal of Jesus. That’s my favorite part about this play – Guirgis’ brilliant way of giving these characters depth. Monica’s line, “I couldn’t break him. So I sat next down to him.” This contradiction I found to be just beautiful, and one of the many reasons I love this play so much.
I also really loved how modern historical figures were included in this story. It was really cool to see a new side of, for example, Mother Theresa. I loved seeing her as an actual person, not just a saint. The portion of the play when Mother Theresa could not hear anyone was absolutely hilarious. But she still had the knowledge one would expect with Mother Theresa. She said, “Boy, one must participate in one’s own salvation. In order to hear, one must be willing to listen.” (Guirgis p. 33). Guirgis understands that even people like Mother Theresa have their flaws. But then, on the flip side, he adds a little humanity to Satan. He makes Satan out to be humorous. He gives Satan enough humanity to hold a decent conversation with Judas. And then Judas… as of now, I have not finished the play. But just the way that Monica described him in his monologue was just beautiful. I can’t wait to finish it.