Twelve Angry Men Essay

1287 Words Feb 24th, 2010 6 Pages
Time: 1957
Place: New York City Courtroom
Case: An African-American teenager has been accused of murdering his father.

On April 14th, 1951, Reginald Rose, a thirty-one-year-old army veteran published his second, and most prominent dramatic work entitled Twelve Angry Men. This play is now admired as a momentous, eloquent and critical examination of the United States jury system. Twelve Angry Men examines key courtroom themes including civil duty and reasonable doubt. Through the voice of these twelve men, the audience must ask themselves imperative questions regarding the American court system, moral responsibility and the role of emotions in a verdict. The selection of jurors is indeed a very complicated process.
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“The jurors have been wrenched from their daily lives, and made to swear a terrible oath. This oath is of such strength that it makes that taken in the marriage ceremony seem as indeed – it may, sadly, generally prove – conditional” (Mamet 8). After being given such grave responsibility, each juror must decide how he or she will use the enormous power. They must weigh the evidence, and ultimately decide the fate of the defendant. In Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose, the play begins in a diminutive jury room where twelve jurors are to determine the guilt or innocence of an African-American teenager who is charged with first-degree murder. The judge begins the play stating that the jury’s task is not to be taken lightly, and a guilty verdict will result in death by the electric chair. The power given to twelve ordinary men is colossal – it is literally life and death – and they must decide the fate of this young man beyond a reasonable doubt. After the preliminary vote to see where every juror stands, all of the jurors vote guilty except juror number eight. The eleven jurors who voted guilty believe it is an “open and shut case” for various reasons. As the play progresses, the audience is exposed to the emotional baggage the twelve jurors bring to their individual decisions. The foreman/juror one is a ridiculed man who just wants to get the job done, juror two is an does not appear to be a smart man, juror

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