Twelve Angry Men

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Three Character Analysis

A strong-minded, loud-mouthed, prejudiced man. Three is the final holdout in claiming the accused is guilty at the end of the play. His strong belief in the guilt of the youth seems to stem from his personal situation, his prejudices, and the painful rift between himself and his son (which causes him to judge all youth negatively).

Three Quotes in Twelve Angry Men

The Twelve Angry Men quotes below are all either spoken by Three or refer to Three. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the The Dramatic Publishing Company edition of Twelve Angry Men published in 1983.
Act 1 Quotes

Three: I never saw a guiltier man in my life... You sat right in court and heard the same thing I did. The man's a dangerous killer. You could see it.

...

Eight: He's nineteen years old.

Related Characters: Three (speaker), Eight (speaker), Accused kid
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Unlike Ten's collective prejudice, Three displays a more specific and personal dislike of the accused kid. Eventually it becomes clear that Three has bad memories of his son and holds onto the accused kid's guilt to an irrational degree because of this strained relationship. Three is the least rational of the jurors. He is stubborn and he does not waffle like some of the others, but he bases his opinion on impressions and feelings, rather than facts. Here, he exhibits this tendency when he says "you could see" that the accused kid is a dangerous killer, simply by looking at him. Three's certainty of the kid's guilt is founded on shaky ground. At the same time, Eight's doubt is also emotionally-based, as his reply demonstrates. Where Three sees a killer, Eight sees a kid. Eight is inclined to give a kid the benefit of the doubt because of his age. 

From the beginning to the end of the play, Eight and Three reverse roles. At the beginning, Eight stands alone for "not guilty," and at the end, Three stands alone for "guilty." This parallel between the characters shows their similarities and differences. They both base their initial opinions of the kid on their prejudices, but they behave very differently when "taking a stand." Three continues his stubborn conviction based on his feelings, whereas Eight, despite his own sentiments, turns to logic and reasoning to address others. He does not fold under the pressure Three (and the others) put on him for standing alone.

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Three: You’re right. It's the kids. The way they are—you know? They don't listen. I've got a kid. When he was eight years old, he ran away from a fight. I saw him. I was so ashamed. I told him right out, "I'm gonna make a man out of you or I'm gonna bust you up into little pieces trying." When he was fifteen he hit me in the face. He's big, you know. I haven't seen him in three years. Rotten kid! You work your heart out....

Related Characters: Three (speaker)
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Three's statements about the accused kid are interrupted by a story he shares about his relationship with his own son. Although this seems off-topic, the connection between these things in Three's mind is clear. Talking about the accused kid misbehaving and not listening makes him thinking of his own kid misbehaving and not listening. He makes it clear that he assumes all kids have these problems when he says, "It's the kids. The way they are--you know? They don't listen." He expands his own experience with a kid into a generalization about all kids. Like Ten's prejudice against the kid's group, Three's prejudice against kids in general leads him to be overly confident in his accusation. He feels certain of the kid's guilt without a logical basis for his certainty. 

Three's stubbornness is more understandable with his personal context. Even though Three is cruel, abrasive, and stubborn, his story makes it clear that he is in pain and that the source of his actions is personal suffering, which he is reminded of because of this case. Three was cruel to his son--threatening him for running from a fight--but his bitterness is stated in the stage directions and his unhappiness is palpable as he says "I haven't seen him in three years." On one level, he might feel his kid is really "rotten," but on another level, he feels pain (and possibly guilt) over their estrangement. 

Four: Take a look at that knife. It's a very strange knife. I've never seen one like it before in my life and neither had the storekeeper who sold it to him.

[Eight reaches casually into his pocket and withdraws an object. No one notices this. He stands up quietly.]

Four: Aren't you trying to make us accept a pretty incredible coincidence?

Eight: I'm not trying to make anyone accept it. I'm just saying it's possible.

Three: (shouting). And I'm saying it's not possible.

[Eight swiftly flicks open the blade of a switch knife and jams it into the table next to the first one. They are exactly alike. There are several gasps and everyone stares at the knife. There is a long silence.]

Related Characters: Three (speaker), Four (speaker), Eight (speaker)
Related Symbols: Switch knife
Page Number: 23-24
Explanation and Analysis:

Four offers the most rational arguments for the accused kid's guilt. He is reasonable and calm in his delivery and seems more interested in the logical steps of the case than Three or Ten, who have personal and impassioned reasons for blaming and accusing the kid. Therefore, Four's shift from certainty to doubt seems to be the most accurate measure in the play of the success of Eight's arguments for reasonable doubt. 

One of Four's reasons for certainty, as detailed in this passage, is the unusual appearance of the knife used to kill the father. It seems highly unlikely that another identical knife could have been purchased and used in the murder of the father. Four refers to this possibility--that the kid bought an identical knife to the one someone else used to kill his father--as a "pretty incredible coincidence." This helps clarify the term "reasonable doubt." Yes, Four says, there's a possibility that someone else bought the exact same knife, but this is not a "reasonable" possibility. It is, in fact, a highly unlikely possibility. When Eight produces an identical knife and jams it into the table, however, the gesture is strong visual proof that this possibility is more reasonable than it might have seemed. He was able to easily procure an identical knife, which means that any other person might have been able to as well. This causes the jurors to doubt their original certainty that the knife the kid bought is the same one that killed his father. 

Act 2 Quotes

Three: (angrily). He's an old man. You saw him. Half the time he was confused. How could he be positive about anything? [Looks around sheepishly, unable to cover up his blunder.]

Related Characters: Three (speaker), The old man downstairs
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

The old man's testimony has seemingly been undermined by Nine's comments that the old man might have had a reason to exaggerate, to claim he was more certain than he was about what happened. But one of the details that he was most confident of was how long it took him to get to the door. And yet this time seems impossible to the jurors. Does this undermine the old man's testimony? He must have been lying or misremembering when stating the amount of time it took him to get to the door, and, therefore, he could be lying about or misremembering other details. This shred of doubt makes the jurors less certain about all of the old man's testimony. 

Three, in this passage, is quick to say that the details of the testimony shouldn't matter. Of course, he says, the old man got the time wrong. He's a confused old man. As he speaks these words, however, he realizes that they undermine his agenda by negating all of the old man's testimony. An error in the testimony shouldn't be explained away by stating that an old man was bound to make mistakes, so this one should be overlooked. This implies that anything else in the testimony could also be a mistake. The use of the word "positive" in Three's statement incorporates the idea of "certainty." It seems the old man couldn't be certain, which calls his testimony into reasonable doubt--the exact thing Three is stubbornly trying to avoid.

Eight: You want to see this boy die because you personally want it—not because of the facts.

Three: Shut up!

[He lunges at Eight, but is caught by two of the jurors and held. He struggles as Eight watches calmly.]

Three: Let me go. I'll kill him. I’ll kill him!

Eight: You don't really mean you'll kill me, do you?

Related Characters: Three (speaker), Eight (speaker), Accused kid
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

Eight argues that the kid's overhead yell of "I'll kill you" should not be treated as evidence of intention. Many people would say such a thing in an impassioned moment and not follow through with it, or even actually mean it. This is a (relatively) common phrase expressing anger, and should not be treated as a statement of intent or premeditation. Minutes later, the tension between Eight and Three rises to a fevered pitch, as Eight accuses Three of arguing for the accused kid to die because he "personally wants it." This conclusion shows the difference between ideal justice and reality. Eight is pointing out that Three is motivated by personal judgements. He is not operating as an unbiased judge of the situation. 

This accusation angers Three, who is always quick to respond emotionally. His anger seems to derive from the fact that Eight would make such a bold and offensive claim implying that Three wants someone to die. Three's anger and following comments hurt his reputation far more than Eight's accusation, however, because he seems to confirm his own hotheadedness, while also proving Eight's point from earlier. He yells that he'll kill Eight, because he's angry that Eight would accuse him of wanting someone dead, which is a very ironic twist. Eight's reply points almost too neatly to their earlier conversation. Does Three really mean this, or is he speaking in the heat of passion? And if he doesn't really mean it, why couldn't the same have been true of the accused kid's circumstances?

Act 3 Quotes

Three: …You made all the arguments. You can’t turn now. A guilty man’s going to be walking the streets. A murderer! He’s got to die! Stay with me!...

Four: I’m sorry. I’m convinced. I don’t think I’m wrong often, but I guess I was this once. There is a reasonable doubt in my mind.

Related Characters: Three (speaker), Four (speaker), Accused kid
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

Juror Four maintains his rational thinking throughout the play. He switches sides with grace once he feels that "there is a reasonable doubt in my mind." In his measured thinking and unbiased rationality, Four embodies a sort of "ideal juror." He holds onto the ideal of the justice system--that reasonable doubt results in a "not guilty" verdict--and he isn't swayed by passion or stubbornness, but by measured persuasion. He exhibits strength in this passage by publicly admitting he was wrong. This shows the contrast between him and Three, who stubbornly sticks to his viewpoint. Four demonstrates that stubbornness is not the same thing as taking a righteous stand, and that gracefully yielding is more valuable than being stubborn in the face of reason. 

Three is stubborn, but he is also certain of the kid's guilt, as if blind to the rational arguments made by others. He is horrified by the thought of a murderer walking the streets free. He feels certain that the kid must die to pay for his crime. Three sees Four's rational arguments against the kid (and his initial "guilty" vote) as evidence that Four was on his side, rather than as examples of Four's rational thinking. It is difficult for Three to imagine being convinced by evidence when, throughout the play, it is clear that he makes his judgements through gut instinct, as he did when he stated that anyone "could see" that the kid was a murderer, just by looking at him. 

Eight: [to Three] They’re waiting. [Three sees that he is alone. He moves to table and pulls switch knife out of table and walks over to Eight with it. Three is holding knife in approved knife-fighter fashion. Three looks long and hard at juror Eight and weaves a bit from side to side as he holds knife with point of it in direction of Eight’s belly. Eight speaks quietly, firmly.] Not guilty. [Three turns knife around and Eight takes it by handle. Eight closes knife and puts it away.]

Three: Not guilty!

Related Characters: Three (speaker), Eight (speaker), Accused kid
Related Symbols: Switch knife
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

This poignant final confrontation between Three and Eight ends the play with all the jurors unanimously agreeing that the accused kid is "not guilty." This scene moves the struggle from one of logic, prejudice, and words to a struggle that is nonverbal and even potentially violent. Throughout this play, the jurors have used their words to persuade each other. In some cases, this has meant using logic and precision, and in other cases this has meant using personal experience, passion, or emotion. Justice has been sought despite the flaws of prejudice and hatred, despite the biases of the diverse jury. But in this scene it seems that the struggle has shifted from a struggle between "guilty" and "not guilty" to a personal struggle between Three and Eight. 

Eight says "not guilty" and Three repeats the words after him, surrendering the knife in the same moment. This action symbolizes Three's surrender. Eight's way of persuading Three in this passage is mostly nonverbal. He seems more powerful than Three because he does not seem afraid, even though Three is threatening him with a knife. Three, on the other hand, notes that "he is alone" and seems cowed by this. Three does not take a stand, as Eight did, but surrenders when he is the only juror on one side of the equation. Even though Eight has achieved a great feat by convincing eleven jurors to switch to his side, the strength of Eight's character calls the process of justice into question. Eight is smart, persuasive, courageous, and powerful (more powerful than Three in this passage), and it seems these things, more so than the truth of the kid's situation, have resulted in the conclusion of this play and the justice that is served. 

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Three Character Timeline in Twelve Angry Men

The timeline below shows where the character Three appears in Twelve Angry Men. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Justice Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Juror Three bristles at the need for the door to be locked. He adds that he is,... (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...asks everyone to openly admit that the heat in the room has them short-tempered. Juror Three, acting the contrarian, responds that he feels fine. Juror Twelve impatiently muses about his advertising... (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...emotion, like a prejudice against a group, get in the way of his thinking. Juror Three is focused on getting the case over. The Foreman announces that he will leave it... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
The vote is 11-1 in favor of guilty: Juror Eight is the only dissenter. Juror Three rises to confront Juror Eight, while Juror Twelve insists that the defendant’s guilt is as... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Juror Three threatens to go through all the ways the prosecution “proved” the boy’s guilt. Juror Ten... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...prejudice and says Ten doesn’t have a “monopoly on the truth”. Nine continues over Juror Three’s objection, getting worked up until Juror Eight calms him. Juror Four insists that they can... (full context)
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Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Juror Three steps in to summarize what he calls the “facts”, and then reiterates the witness account... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...up that the boy’s father beat him, Juror Seven retorts that he deserved it. Juror Three bitterly agrees, and lashes out against all “kids.” He says that he has had a... (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...room, Juror Five slams his hand on the table, saying that it is personal. Juror Three tries to calm Juror Five down, and there is a long silence. Eventually, Juror Eleven... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Juror Three brings up one of the “answered” questions, the switch knife the boy bought. Juror Eight... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...an unusual switchblade knife, the only one the storekeeper says he had in stock. Juror Three tells all the jurors to listen to Juror Four, who “knows what he’s talking about.”... (full context)
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Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
...into the wall for 2 dollars at a junk shop near the boy’s house. Juror Three calls Juror Eight’s move a smart trick, insisting still that the boy lied. Juror Eight... (full context)
Act 2
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
Juror Seven and Juror Three insist that they want to know who changed his vote. Juror Eleven interrupts, reminding them... (full context)
...Five who changed his vote, and asks what it was that made him change. As Three and Seven insist that Five tell them, Nine interrupts that he was the one who... (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
...reflect that sometimes a guilty man is released and sometimes an innocent man is accused. Three apologizes to Five saying that he didn't mean anything personal by his accusation that Five... (full context)
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Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Three says the old man heard the kid yell at his father, “I'm going to kill... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...saw the murder occur through the last two car windows of a passing elevated train. Three starts a game of tic-tac-toe, but Eight says this isn't the time for games and... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...the old man could have heard what he claims to have heard. Two agrees and Three asks whether they are calling the old man a liar. He asks why the old... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
...he's not making this up and that he knows about this feeling this from experience. Three says Nine is admitting that he's a liar, but Eight argues he's only explaining the... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Three disagrees and says that the way the kid said it indicates that he meant it.... (full context)
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...The Foreman requests the floor plan of the apartments from the Guard at the door. Three asks, why it is that Eight is the one who always wants to see exhibits... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...Nine reminds them that the old man was very positive about the length of time. Three says that the witness is an old man, and half the time he was confused,... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Three says that Eight is making up wild stories because he feels sorry for slum kids.... (full context)
Act 3
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...says there's nothing wrong and returns the diagram of the apartments. The jurors are silent. Three ask them what they're looking at, but everyone is silent. Eventually Four points out that... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...says he's glad that they can be civilized about this process. Six proposes another vote. Three says he wants it to be an open ballot vote, so they know where each... (full context)
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Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
Three says that he's ready to declare a hung jury. Four asks Eleven, Two, and Six... (full context)
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
...points out that at first he was alone, but now five others agree with him. Three says that he'll never be convinced. Twelve says they’re a hung jury. Eight insists they... (full context)
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Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
...he changed his mind. Two says that Eight seemed confident and made good arguments, while Three grew angry and mean. Four says these considerations don't change the guilt of the boy. (full context)
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Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Three is very supportive of Four as he starts to outline his reasoning. He offers the... (full context)
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...says the old man claims he recognized a running figure in that very dark hallway. Three says Eleven is just making things up. (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
...says there's something that's been bothering him: the stab wound made at a downward angle. Three says that was gone over in court extensively. Two says he wasn't convinced. It seems... (full context)
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
Three says that he'll demonstrate how a shorter man could kill a taller man with a... (full context)
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Eight says that nobody's hurt and Three says that he just demonstrated how he'd stop a taller man. Six says, “I guess... (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...all those voting “not guilty” raise their hands. Every hand is raised except those of Three, Four, and Ten. Ten says he cannot understand how others believe the kid is innocent.... (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...window. Ten says these people are no good and this kid is one of them. Three stays at the table, while Four gets up and moves towards Ten. Ten wonders what's... (full context)
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Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...that the most important evidence comes from the testimony of the woman across the street. Three instantly agrees, also saying that this is the most important testimony. (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Three says that the other evidence is unimportant compared to this testimony. Four says that Eight... (full context)
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...the kid in the act of killing, but she might have only seen a blur. Three wonders how Eight could know these ideas he proposes. (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
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Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
...still thinks there is not a reasonable doubt. Ten says he thinks there is doubt. Three says that he still votes “guilty.” Four says he is convinced there is a reasonable... (full context)
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Eight asks Three for his arguments in favor of the kid’s guilt. He says that they have time... (full context)
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Three says that the others won’t intimidate him and that it will be a hung jury.... (full context)
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Three surrenders. The other jurors rise and the Foreman goes to the door. The Guard lets... (full context)