Sample student response - Twelve Angry Men
Reginald Rose’s use of stage directions is essential in the play. Without them the audience would not understand his intended social criticism.
Twelve Angry Men embraces realistic and naturalistic traditions, presenting an everyday legal drama and the interpersonal conflicts it can generate. It is set during the Cold War when America was struggling for political and economic dominance over powerful nations such as the Soviet Union. As a social critic, Reginald Rose explores the internal conflict in the 1950’s where Communism was feared and racial segregation was still present. Not only does the play echo people’s fear of anyone who was different at the time, it addresses questions of prejudice in the American Jury system. The audience is challenged to evaluate their own possible prejudices and value human compassion over narrow-mindedness and bigotry. To convey his central concern, Rose’s stage directions are concise and delivered in two acts. He deliberately chose a particular setting and characters to use in the play and these essentially contribute to the tension and anger in the play and also clarify moral issues explored in the play.
The division of the play in two Acts is an effective device used by Rose to convey what is happening in the jury room. The division of the acts also serves to build up the tension in the play with both acts ending in dramatic climaxes. The first act ends with Juror 3 lunging towards Juror 8 with a knife and threatening to kill him and both men staring silently at each other. The second act ends after Juror 10 has presented his dramatic tirade and prejudiced views about those who come from similar backgrounds to the defendant. and Juror 3’s final speech at the conclusion of the play where he finally lets go of all his anger and accepts Juror 8’s kind gesture. Because each act unfolds with unbroken dialogue, very important pauses and silences have been incorporated by the...
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