In Act Three, Scene One of Millennium Approaches, two predecessors of Prior show up at his bedside. One claims to be Prior Walter the first, and the other is Prior Walter the 17th. This confusing but telling scene alludes to the many Priors that have lived throughout the years, showing the apparent strength of the family bloodline. However powerful this bloodline, however, there is a certain expendability that one may associate with the name Prior Walter. Because there have been so many, it makes each Prior that follows seem less and less significant and just another prior Walter. In addition to the inevitability of the existence of a Prior at any point in time, the death of each Prior is inevitable as well. Whatever the “pestilence” of the time, the Prior of that time will fall ill to it (Kushner 92). For Prior the First, it seemingly was the Black Death, and for this current version of Prior, the pestilence of course is AIDS. This speaks to a larger theme of the play, which is the inevitability of death.
This play is encompassed in death. Because it is so persistent in this text, Kushner must resort to camp to make the play seem less dark – in this particular scene, Prior is already pretty close to dying, but the campiness of having Prior the first and Prior the 17th there makes the theme of death easier to digest. It is also important to note that Prior will not reproduce and therefore he won’t be continuing the family bloodline, an extremely tragic fact that is covered up by the campiness of this particular passage.
This speaks to the many roles that “camp” can play in a text – it typically is used to allude to a common critique of society and does not really take a side. However, in this situation, “camp” alleviates us and makes the large pill of death that is ever-present in this play easier to swallow.