"Twelve Angry Men" Study Paper

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  • Topic: Jury, Jury nullification, Not proven
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  • Published : December 20, 2012
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Grade 8 English
INDIVIDUAL LEARNING PACKET

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TWELVE ANGRY MEN

By Reginald Rose

Introduction

In 1957, a boy is on trial in a New York City court of law, accused of the murder of his father. It is a hot July afternoon. The twelve male jurors retire into the jury room, instructed by the judge to consider the evidence “honestly and thoughtfully”. Before long, however, issues of prejudice and racism arise, threatening to influence the impartial process of justice.

Historical Note

In the 1950s in the State of New York, women were allowed to serve on juries, but most were ‘excused’ for various reasons, such as their need to go to work to support their families, poor health, old age, a need to care for small children, or the distance they lived from the courthouse. Generally, women were absent from the process of justice, and that is why the jury is all male in the play.

Terms and Definitions

Plot - the pattern of events in a literary work; what happens.

Characterisation – the methods (actions, speech, etc.) used by an author to show the personalities of the characters.

Theme – the central idea behind the story; the message that the writer wishes to communicate to the reader/audience, either directly or indirectly. The theme is most often a universal statement about humanity, rather than a simple statement dealing with the plot or characters of a story.

Dialogue – conversation between two or more characters.

Dramatis personae – the cast of characters in a play.

Drama – a play intended to be acted.

Melodrama – a sensational dramatic work with exaggerated characters and exciting (perhaps unrealistic) events, designed to appeal to the emotions.

Motivation – the reasons behind a character’s actions.

Prejudice – an unfair judgment or attitude that is not based on actual fact or common sense.

Protagonist – the main character in a story around whom the plot is based.

Antagonist – the person or force that is in conflict with, or opposes, the protagonist.

Climax – the point of greatest dramatic tension or excitement in a story.

Stage business – a character’s interaction with a prop, a piece of scenery or another character, designed to move the action of the play or reveal more about the character.

Dramatic stereotype – when a playwright creates a character whose behaviour and nature are immediately familiar to the audience. The character is not 100% realistic, but is a ‘type’ of person found in society. This type could be based on race, social class, physical appearance, nationality, or another easily identifiable trait.

Dramatic irony – when the full meaning of a character’s words or actions are realised by the audience, but not by the character.

Staging – the sets, props and actions of the characters.

Legal Terms

trial – a court case.

Prosecutor – the lawyer (district attorney) who tries to prove the guilt of the accused.

Defense Counsel – the lawyer who represents the accused and tries to maintain his innocence. (British spelling: Defence)

testimony – spoken evidence given by a witness in court.

Foreman – a juror chosen to lead the jury and give a verdict to the judge.

to convict – to find the accused guilty of the crime.

to acquit – to find the accused innocent of the crime.

reasonable doubt – the rule that states, in a court case, if a sensible amount of uncertainty exists as to whether the accused is guilty or not, the juror must vote to acquit. If jurors were not there to see the accused commit the crime, they cannot be 100% certain that he or she is guilty. However, even without being certain, they may vote guilty if they genuinely believe that the accused committed the crime. But if they have a real question in their minds as to the accused person’s guilt, this is a “reasonable doubt” and their votes should be to acquit.

innocent until proven guilty – an...
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