Twelve Angry Men

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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

Murder in the first degree—premeditated homicide—is the most serious charge tried in our criminal courts. You've heard a long and complex case, gentlemen, and it is now your duty to sit down to try and separate the facts from the fancy. One man is dead. The life of another is at stake. If there is a reasonable doubt in your minds as to the guilt of the accused . . . then you must declare him not guilty. If, however, there is no reasonable doubt, then he must be found guilty. Whichever way you decide, the verdict must be unanimous. I urge you to deliberate honestly and thoughtfully. You are faced with a grave responsibility. Thank you, gentlemen.

Related Characters: Judge (speaker), Accused kid, Murdered father
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

The play opens with the judge in a criminal court case summarizing for both audience and jury what is at stake in this case. His words spell out the basic principles of the American legal system: a jury must declare the accused guilty if, and only if, his or her guilt has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. This passage has the dual effect of setting the scene and introducing a few of the most contentious topics of the play. Broadly, the judge places the play in conversation with the American legal system. The setting of the play is timeless, but the twelve jurors represent a diverse body of Americans intended to present a variety of types of opinions from a variety of types of people, with a variety of types of prejudices and personalities--all in connection to the timeless legal and social issues addressed in the play. 

The topic of this play is justice, but also the way the very human jury thinks about and perceives justice. The judge establishes the jurors' responsibility to be a "grave" one and asks that they "deliberate honestly and thoughtfully." The next several lines of the play show a different reality, as the men complain about the court proceedings and rush the deliberation process. Furthermore, the idea of "reasonable doubt" is highlighted immediately in this opening passage. Reasonable doubt, what it is and what constitutes reasonable doubt in this specific case, will be under debate throughout the play--particularly when reasonable doubt is in the hands of unreasonable humans.


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Ten: It's tough to figure, isn't it? A kid kills his father. Bing! Just like that. Well, it's the element. They let the kids run wild. Maybe it serves ‘em right.

Related Characters: Ten (speaker), Four , Accused kid, Murdered father
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Early dialogue in the play helps to establish the diverse characters of the twelve jurors. These men differ in age, occupation, experience, background, religion, and (presumably) race. These differences result in a variety of types of prejudices and sympathies, and the play often reveals why certain characters think in certain ways and make certain assumptions. In this passage, juror Ten is already establishing his character and prejudices. Throughout the play, he shows a dislike of the group of people to whom the defendant belongs. It seems that the kid accused of killing his father is poor and grew up in an impoverished neighborhood. His race is never specified, but because Ten groups the accused with people different than himself (a group he belittles and stereotypes, assuming everyone from that group to be the same), it may be that the accused kid belongs to a minority racial group as well (but this all depends on individual staging of the play, of course). 

Ten's vitriolic remarks escalate over the course of the play and eventually alienate other jurors who are shocked at the amount of unfounded hatred he displays. In this early scene, however, Ten's remarks against a whole group of people go relatively unnoticed by the other jurors. All the jurors exhibit forms of prejudice. Although the word "prejudice" normally has a negative connotation, this play presents a connected idea of "sympathy." Juror Eight is inclined to like and feel sorry for the accused kid because of his impoverished background, while Ten is inclined to dislike him. Both are forms of bias, and though sympathy is a more virtuous kind of bias in the world outside the courtroom, for a jury, all bias, whether positive or not, is supposed to be removed. 

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.

Eight: There were eleven votes for guilty. It's not so easy for me to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.

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

The jurors begin their deliberations by taking a vote to see where they stand. In this vote, eleven men vote "guilty" and one votes "not-guilty." Eight's logic, as he states it initially, points out the rashness of the proceedings. These men are ready to let a kid accused of murder suffer the greatest punishment possible without thorough deliberation. Although it becomes clear that Eight has thought rationally about the details of the case, his initial "not-guilty" vote is based on a simple ideal of the American legal system. A twelve person jury is intended to be diverse, so that a case can be thoroughly discussed, prejudices countered, and a better decision reached than any one man might make alone. This requires discussion and debate. 

Despite its initial appearance of uniformity, this jury is actually quite diverse (as much as possible in a group of only men), with a variety of conflicting opinions that come to light when they take the time to discuss them. The legal system is designed to move the reality of humanity (which is messy with prejudices, boredom, and emotions) to a more perfect state in which justice can be served. Getting twelve men to agree is more likely to achieve justice than following the will of any one man. This is not always the case, but Eight reminds the others of the ideal of justice that they should strive toward. He takes a stand in this scene by casting the one dissenting vote. This action is heroic because he is upholding the higher values of justice rather than serving his own interests. 

Eight: I don't want to change your mind.... I want to talk for a while. Look – this boy's been kicked around all his life. You know – living in a slum – his mother dead since he was nine. That's not a very good head start. He's a tough, angry kid. You know why slum kids get that way? Because we knock 'em on the head once a day, every day. I think maybe we owe him a few words. That's all.

Related Characters: Eight (speaker), Accused kid
Page Number: 15-16
Explanation and Analysis:

Eight's initial explanation of why he wants to discuss the accused kid's case does not include an analysis of evidence or the mention of reasonable doubt. This is a notable nuance of the play: Eight is not free from prejudice, despite his critical heroic role in this play. Eight is presented as a hero who persuades the other jurors to change their minds and spare a youth through his thoughtful arguments for reasonable doubt.

This passage shows, however, that emotion, not logic, motivates him. Despite his honorable behavior in granting the defendant's case thorough discussion rather than a rash decision, Eight is just as predisposed to think in certain ways and make certain assumptions as the other jurors. He is sympathetic toward the defendant, and this is partially because of his own feeling of guilt. He sees himself and his group as repeatedly and unfairly mistreating the members of the defendant's group. Eight is biased in favor of the accused kid because he sees his toughness and anger as the result of this mistreatment.

Eight believes in giving each person consideration of his circumstances when considering his crime. He points out the hardships in the kid's life, including the death of his mother. From a legal standpoint, the death of his mother should have no bearing on the kid's guilt. The crime, and not his life, is what is under consideration. But humans are not fully rational beings, and Eight exhibits the power of sympathy to sway opinions.

Ten: I don't mind telling you this, mister. We don't owe the kid a thing. He got a fair trial, didn't he? You know what that trial cost? He's lucky he got it. Look, we're all grownups here. You're not going to tell us that we're supposed to believe him, knowing what he is. I've lived among 'em all my life. You can't believe a word they say. You know that.

Related Characters: Ten (speaker), Eight, Accused kid
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Ten presents a counter-point to Eight's sympathy for the accused kid. Just as Eight is more inclined to give time, consideration, and understanding to the kid because of his circumstances, Ten is less inclined to give these things. He sees the kid as representative of a group that he dislikes and distrusts. His prejudice against "them" leads him to conclude that "you can't believe a word they say." Who the "they" are exactly is unclear, but the ambiguity contributes to the timelessness and universality of the play. If this play was staged in a certain city at a certain time period, the audience might automatically assume the kid belongs to a group they know to be poor and unprivileged. In a different city, at a different time period, the audience might instinctively assign the kid to a different group. There have always been groups that are judged and discriminated against by the majority and the kid could belong to any of these. 

Interestingly, Ten says that he lived among this group all his life, yet he doesn't identify as one of them. Does Ten's personal exposure to this group lead to his particular vitriol against them? Or is this an exaggeration to explain why he feels justified making such claims? Perhaps suffering at the hands of specific people in Ten's life have made him the way that he is. Whatever the reason for his prejudice, it is clear that Ten's understanding of justice for the kid is different than Eight's. 

Nine: (to Ten very slowly). I don't know that. What a terrible thing for a man to believe! Since when is dishonesty a group characteristic? You have no monopoly on the truth.

Related Characters: Nine (speaker), Ten
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Ten's prejudiced statements against the group that the accused kid belongs to turn Nine against him. Nine sees Ten's statements as illogical because they assume that generalizations about groups of people are true. He questions Ten: "since when is dishonesty a group characteristic?" This remark points out the flaws in all prejudices rather than providing commentary on this specific example. The accused kid might be honest or dishonest. The audience never discovers this one way or the other in the course of the play. However, Nine makes the argument that to assume dishonesty of an individual because he is part of a certain group is flawed logic. Even if a stereotype exists for a reason, it is unfair to apply this stereotype to everyone in the group. There will always be many exceptions to the rule. 

Nine shows Ten that prejudices are flawed because they assume more certainty than one should rationally claim. Ten assumes that the kid is dishonest and, therefore, guilty. Nine says this is a horrible thing to believe because it leads to certainty without any foundation. Ten makes an assumption without evidence in a specific case. Yet, he is very certain about his assumption. Nine, on the other hand, feels it is worthwhile to always consider the exceptions to the rule and to avoid broad assumptions. He lives his life with more doubt and more questions because he does not make assumptions about groups of people as a whole. He looks (or tries to look) at people as individuals. 

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. 

Five: I've lived in a slum all my life.

Ten: Oh, now wait a second!

Five: I used to play in a back yard that was filled with garbage. Maybe it still smells on me.

Foreman: Now let's be reasonable. There's nothing personal.

[Five stands up.]

Five: There is something personal!

Related Characters: Foreman (speaker), Five (speaker), Ten (speaker)
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Juror Five, who is more youthful than the other jurors and who comes from a poor background, takes objection to Ten's ongoing prejudice against the group of people that includes the kid. This prejudice seems to be based on the group's low socio-economic class, which Ten sees as contributing to their violence toward others and their deceptive natures. Five realizes that Ten could be speaking about him, indirectly, because his background makes him a member of this group. Ten immediately backtracks and the Foreman tries to soothe the situation, but the Foreman's comment points out the problem with Ten's prejudice. The Foreman tries to soothe Five by saying that their is nothing personal in Ten's comments, meaning he is not directly attacking Five. But Five sees how his prejudice, although spoken generically about a group of people, directly impacts individual people, of which he could be considered one. 

This diversity within the jury shows the jury to be a "slice" of American life. Ten is pitted against the accused, but Five is sympathetic toward him because he sees the similarities in their lives. The jurors represent a variety of different viewpoints because of their different backgrounds. Because of this diversity, the jury, as a whole, is able to consider the accused kid and the evidence from a variety of different angles of prejudice and sympathy that, ideally, balance each other out in their decision-making process. 

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. 

Seven: Now wait a second. What are you, the guy's lawyer? Listen, there are still eleven of us who think he's guilty. You're alone. What do you think you're gonna accomplish? If you want to be stubborn and hang this jury, he'll be tried again and found guilty, sure as he's born.

Eight: You're probably right.

Seven: So what are you gonna do about it? We can be here all night.

Nine: It's only one night. A man may die.

Related Characters: Seven (speaker), Eight (speaker), Nine (speaker)
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Seven is one of the least engaged jurors; he seems to prioritize concluding the case and leaving, with little respect for the seriousness of the situation, as this passage shows. Despite his motives for rushing the decision, Seven makes a legitimate point about Eight taking a stand against the rest of the jurors. In choosing to stand alone, Eight is preventing a decision that is held by the majority, and that would be reinforced by another group of people if Eight's stubbornness resulted in a hung jury. Eight acknowledges the truth of these words. This shows the tension between stubbornness and taking a stand in the play. When is it good to stand up for what you believe and when is it appropriate to acknowledge that your thinking could be at fault? The play seems to answer that both are important. Three, at the end of the play, must yield to the majority. Eight, at the beginning, takes a stand for a good cause. 

Nine highlights Seven's frivolity in the face of what is at stake in these deliberations: a man's life. Seven's impatience with Eight is partly justified because there are times when one should be able to admit they could be wrong in the face of an overwhelming majority who disagrees. But Seven's impatience is not justified in terms of the ideal proceedings of justice. The legal system is designed to serve justice after thorough consideration and deliberation, and Seven is unwilling to sacrifice his time, even when another man's life is at stake. 

Eight: I've got a proposition to make. I want to call for a vote. I want eleven men to vote by secret ballot. I'll abstain. If there are still eleven votes for guilty, I won't stand alone. We'll take in a guilty verdict right now.

Related Characters: Eight (speaker)
Related Symbols: Secret ballot
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

Eight responds to Seven's concerns that he is holding out stubbornly against a majority that disagrees with him by proposing a vote by secret ballot. This gesture shows that Eight is trying to balance stubbornness and taking a stand. If everyone else strongly feels it is time to make a decision for "guilty," he won't prevent this. He is willing to surrender gracefully, unlike Three at the end of the play. This move is risky in terms of Eight's agenda, which is to consider the reasons for reasonable doubt that he has sensed exist in the case. The other men might very easily have stuck with their first decision and proclaimed the accused kid "guilty." In fact, we see that only one man changes his mind even after this next vote. 

Eight's call for the vote by secret ballot is a key moment in the play. When voting by secret ballot, the men are free to make their decision in isolation, without the influence and pressure of others. Certain jurors have already made it clear that they strongly dislike the accused kid or that they're impatient to go home. Eight has already taken abuse and frustration directed at him for delaying the proceedings. It would be difficult to stand up for what's right in this type of environment, in the face of this pressure from other men. Therefore, by voting by secret ballot, the men reach a more "pure" form of justice, "pure" because their decision is based on rational thought without peer pressure. 

Act 2 Quotes

Eleven: Please. I would like to say something here. I have always thought that a man was entitled to have unpopular opinions in this country. This is the reason I came here. I wanted to have the right to disagree. In my own country, I am ashamed to say that.

Related Characters: Eleven (speaker)
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

The vote of a single "not guilty," even though Eight has abstained, causes a strong backlash. Some jurors angrily express a desire to know who changed his vote. Eleven points out the problem with this: each person should be entitled to vote as he wills, even if that vote is unpopular. This is another ideal tenant of justice which is, clearly, not always perfectly fulfilled in practice. Eleven cites the founding American principle of free speech. The protection of free speech is all the more necessary and valuable when the speech being protected is unpopular. 

Eleven is an immigrant, which is another example of the jury's diversity and another source of tension among the jurors who don't all accept Eleven in a way that's free from prejudice. As an immigrant, he has a unique understanding of American society and the American legal system. Unlike the other jurors, who might take their free speech and their right to dissent for granted, Eleven sees this as a strong point of American justice. In his home country, he didn't have the right to disagree, and freedom of speech is one important reason he came to America. Although this is an American ideal, it is easily forgotten in daily life. Eleven's "outsider" perspective remembers and prioritizes this ideal, while the other jurors are caught up in their emotional reactions to the proceedings in the jury room. 

Nine: [Pointing at Eight] This gentleman chose to stand alone against us. That's his right. It takes a great deal of courage to stand alone even if you believe in something very strongly. He left the verdict up to us. He gambled for support, and I gave it to him. I want to hear more. The vote is ten to two.

Related Characters: Nine (speaker), Eight
Page Number: 28-29
Explanation and Analysis:

In the face of ongoing pressure to reveal who changed their vote to "not guilty," Nine reveals that it was he who changed his mind. It seems that he speaks up in order to protect Five, whom Three assumes is the "culprit." In this passage, Nine explains why he changed his vote. His explanation tackles the difference between stubbornness and taking a stand. He admires Eight for exercising his right to disagree because to do so takes courage, a value not included in simple stubbornness, which is generally just selfish. Nine is curious about what else Eight will say because of Eight's willingness to take a risk and to "gamble for support."

Interestingly, Nine's change of heart isn't based on logic or on information about the actual case. It is based solely on the force of Eight's character and his persuasive request for support. While Nine is the oldest juror, and inclined to measured thinking and speaking, this passage shows that he "thinks with his heart," like many of the other jurors. He is persuaded not by reason, but by emotion. This is a reflection of human character more broadly, and it demonstrates the power of Eight's dissension and persuasive speech, as more and more jurors join the "not guilty" side. 

Eight: An el train takes ten seconds to pass a given point, or two seconds per car. That el had been going by the old man's window for at least six seconds and maybe more, before the body fell, according to the woman. The old man would have had to hear the boy say, "I'm going to kill you," while the front of the el was roaring past his nose. It's not possible that he could have heard it.

Related Characters: Eight (speaker), The old man downstairs, The woman across the street
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage details one of Eight's arguments that introduces doubt into the case. The old man, one of the witnesses, heard the accused kid yell, "I'm going to kill you," and this piece of evidence helped solidify both the identity of the killer and the boy's intentions. However, the other main witness described these events through the window of a train roaring past the apartment building. How could the old man have heard the boy yell over the sound of the train? How can both these testimonies be true? By finding an inconsistency between the two testimonies, Eight calls both into question. Someone must have made a mistake or be lying, and this discredits the full testimony of the witness. It is unclear which witness is at fault, and so the jurors begin to doubt everything they accepted as fact from both witnesses. 

Over the course of this play, there is a gradual shift from certainty to doubt among the jurors. Certainty leads to a verdict of "guilty." They are never sure of the accused kid's innocence, and yet they begin to realize that his guilt is not certain. This doubt leads to a verdict of "not guilty." The terms "guilty" and "not guilty" reflect the relationship between certainty and doubt in a legal case. The terms are not "guilty" and "innocent"--instead, reasonable doubt is enough for a "not guilty" verdict. This shift from certainty to doubt occurs when the jurors begin to doubt the eyewitnesses' accounts of what happened.

Nine: It's just that I looked at him for a very long time. The seam of his jacket was split under the arm. Did you notice that? He was a very old man with a torn jacket, and he carried two canes. I think I know him better than anyone here. This is a quiet, frightened, insignificant man who has been nothing all his life, who has never had recognition—his name in the newspapers. Nobody knows him after seventy-five years. That's a very sad thing. A man like this needs to be recognized. To be questioned, and listened to, and quoted just once. This is very important.

Twelve: And you're trying to tell us he lied about a thing like this just so that he could be important?

Nine: No. He wouldn't really lie. But perhaps he'd make himself believe that he heard those words and recognized the boy's face.

Related Characters: Nine (speaker), The old man downstairs
Page Number: 33-34
Explanation and Analysis:

Nine feels that he understands the character of the old man who testified because he can relate most to him, as an old and (presumably) overlooked man himself. He points out details about the old man that he paid attention to and that might have seemed insignificant to the other jurors. He explains that the old man's ragged coat and his insecurities make him someone who is eager and grateful for the attention of the court. The psychological impact of this, to someone who is in desperate need of attention, will be to prolong that interaction. Twelve misunderstands this, as is clear when he asks whether Nine means that the old man lied in his testimony. Lying implies that the old man knowingly deceived the court and the jurors. Nine is speaking of something more subtle: the old man's slight exaggeration of his own certainty. He might have come to believe that he definitely saw the accused kid in the stairwell when in fact he wasn't certain at first. 

This passage provides another angle on the relationship between doubt and certainty. Doubt and certainty are not only the products of reason, but of emotion and memory. Even an eyewitness can be unsure of what he or she saw. Emotional pressure can impact one's certainty. It is easy, with time, to become more or less certain of what happened before one's eyes. Eye witnesses can be very unreliable for this reason. The doubt or certainty of the jurors is based on evidence which is already shifting between doubt and certainty. 

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

Eleven: We have a responsibility. This is a remarkable thing about democracy. That we are...ummmm... what is the word...Ah, notified! That we are notified by mail to come down to this place and decide on the guilt or innocence of a man we have not known before. We have nothing to gain or lose by our verdict. This is one of the reasons why we are strong. We should not make it a personal thing.

Related Characters: Eleven (speaker)
Page Number: 44-45
Explanation and Analysis:

Juror Eleven, the immigrant, continues to hold onto and remind others of the ideals of justice and the way the American legal system has been designed to uphold these ideals. One aspect of this design that is effective, Eleven feels, is that the jurors have never met the accused before and so have no reason to be swayed in one way or another. He says that they have "nothing to gain or lose," and that this lack of bias makes them strong. This is, of course, an idealization of the process of trial-by-jury that has already been undercut by the actions of the play itself. Eleven believes that the jury should be impartial, and yet it is clear that the jury members have a variety of prejudices reflective of the diverse perspectives of American society. Eleven thinks that only knowing the accused would lead them to be impartial when, in fact, the jurors' own personal experiences have biased them before they ever saw the accused kid or heard about the case. 

The final line of this passage shows that Eleven is aware of his statements about justice as an ideal. He says that the jurors "should not make it a personal thing." He has earlier highlighted their responsibility as selected jurors to fulfill their duty well. The word "should" in his statement shows that he sees this as an ideal that the jurors are striving toward, not reaching. They "should" be acting without bias, but they're not. 

Eleven: I beg your pardon, but maybe you don’t understand the term, “reasonable doubt.”
Seven: [angrily] What do you mean, I don’t understand it? Who do you think you are to talk to me like that? [To all] How do you like this guy? He comes over here running for his life, and before he can even take a big breath he’s telling us how to run the show. The arrogance of him!
Four: No one here is asking where anyone came from.
Seven: I was born right here.
Four: Or where your father came from. [Looks at Seven, who looks away.]

Related Characters: Four (speaker), Seven (speaker), Eleven (speaker)
Page Number: 53-54
Explanation and Analysis:

Seven takes personal offense when Eleven says that he does not understand the term "reasonable doubt." Seven's reaction shows that he is offended specifically because Eleven criticized him. Because Eleven is an immigrant, Seven implies that he has no right to tell him what to do or how to do it. He sees Eleven's attempt to correct him as arrogance, stating that because Eleven is an immigrant he is less entitled to speak about the American legal system. Four points out the unfairness of this attack because it is based on personal history. He says that no one should be asking about anyone's family's background. Seven feels he is different from Eleven because he was born in the United States, but Four's response "or where your father came from" implies that Seven is a first generation American.

Four's argument shows that Seven and Eleven have more in common than Seven might like to admit. America is a diverse nation of immigrants and using this as a basis for discrimination strikes Four as inaccurate and pointless, because it is something that many people have in common. He points out the illogical nature of Seven's prejudice against an immigrant when this is part of his background as well. Everyone is quick to think and speak from his own point of view, but this play repeatedly analyzes the problems with this. One problem is that you might have more in common than you suspect with someone whom you are prejudiced against. 

Five: …Anyone who’s ever used a switch knife would never have stabbed downward. You don’t handle a switch knife that way. You use it underhanded. [Illustrates.]
Eight: Then he couldn’t have made the kind of wound that killed his father.
Five: I suppose it’s conceivable that he could have made the wound, but it’s not likely, not if he had any experience with switch knives, and we know that the kid had a lot of experience with switch knives.

Related Characters: Five (speaker), Eight (speaker), Accused kid, Murdered father
Related Symbols: Switch knife
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

Five's experience living in an impoverished community where violence among his neighbors was commonplace turns out to provide key information in the case. Because he has seen switch knives used before, Five is able to demonstrate that they are used underhand rather than overhand. Three tried to demonstrate that the shorter son made a wound on his taller father by stabbing downward with an overhand stroke. Five says that the accused kid could have handled the knife in this way, and could have made the stab wound, but it seems unlikely that he would have done it in this way, given his previous experience with handling such a knife. 

This discrepancy between the way the wound was made and the way an experienced knife handler would have made the wound introduces reasonable doubt of the assumption that the kid stabbed his father. Why would he have done something out of character and incommensurate with his experience? This seems unlikely. The language Five uses highlights the ideas of certainty and doubt. Eight says that the accused kid couldn't have made this wound. Five corrects him, saying, "it's conceivable that he could have made the wound, but it's not likely." Reasonable doubt does not require that the jury be sure the kid didn't make the wound. But it does require that they have good reason to suspect he might not have made it. This is what Five provides with his analysis of how the switch knife is held.

Ten: …You know, they get drunk, and bang, someone’s lying in the gutter. Nobody’s blaming them. That’s how they are. You know what I mean? Violent!…Most of them, it’s like they have no feelings…They’re no good. There’s not one of ‘em who’s any good. We better watch out. Take it from me.

Related Characters: Ten (speaker), Accused kid, Murdered father
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Ten's vitriolic hatred of the group to which the accused kid belongs finally spills over into a cruel tirade in which it seems inconceivable to him that the other jurors are changing their minds and pardoning the kid. As Ten speaks, the jurors begin to leave the table and stand at the window. This is a silent protest against the blatant prejudice and hatred in Ten's words, as if the jurors are refusing to listen to and condone what he says. Ten seems to burn himself out with this speech and to realize that the other jurors do not agree with him, as he silently joins the majority for "not guilty" after this final tirade fails. Perhaps he realizes that he has gone too far and exposed a level of hatred that is shocking even to others who have their own sets of prejudices. 

Ten is unable to see even the slightest hope of redemption for the group to which the accused kid belongs. He says "there's not one of 'em who's any good." He refers to them as "violent" and sees this violence as part of their natures: "that's how they are." He sees a lifestyle (or race) as the source of this violence, a lifestyle of drinking and violence that perpetuates more drinking and violence. The shocking part of this speech is Ten's lack of sympathy for people stuck in a community plagued by violence. Instead, he cautions his fellow jurors to "watch out" for these types. 

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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