12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men Summary and Analysis of Act Two

--- Summary of Act Two ---

Act II resumes in the same moment we left Act I. 3rd Juror has just, in a fury, tried to leap at 8th Juror, but is restrained. The Guard enters, and everything calms down; the jurors resume deliberations. Another vote is taken, and the jury is now six to six. They take a break. During this break, it begins to rain outside. Also, they are able to turn the fan on, cooling the room. 3rd Juror tries to reclaim some of his image; he talks to 4th juror, saying, “I get moved by this. But let me tell you, I’m sincere.” 4th Juror does not respond well, indicating that 3rd Juror has, in fact, lost credibility.

When deliberations resume, 8th Juror attempts to break apart the testimony of the arresting police officer that the defendant was unable to name the movies that he had claimed to have seen that evening. He asserts that possibly the defendant just forgot the names of the films and who was in them “under great emotional distress.” He illustrates this point by asking 4th Juror what he saw several nights ago at the movies. 4th Juror is unable to respond accurately, and the point is made.

The Foreman brings up the fact that a psychologist testified that after giving the defendant several tests, he determined that the defendant had homicidal tendencies. However, 11th Juror argues against this piece of evidence reminding the jurors that there is a big difference between having homicidal tendencies and committing murder.

Next, 2nd Juror brings up the coroner’s testimony that the father had been stabbed in the chest “down and in” and also that his father was six or seven inches taller than he. While reenacting the mechanics of this stabbing, 5th Juror gets up and begins to examine the switchblade. He explains that it would make no sense for someone to stab someone like that with a switchblade because it would require the attacker to lose precious time. Because the defendant was highly competent with a switchblade, it becomes questionable whether or not he would have made that chest wound.

7th Juror, tired of sitting through these deliberations, decides to change his vote to ‘not guilty.’ 11th Juror is angered by this, furious that 7th Juror is not respecting the process enough to do what he believes is right, no matter what that is. The jurors take another vote, and it is now nine to three, all but 3rd, 4th, and 10th Juror are in favor of ‘not guilty.’ This launches 10th Juror in a massive bigoted rant, which ends with 4th Juror scolding him back into his seat.

4th Juror now begins a discussion by reintroducing what he considers to be the most compelling piece of evidence, the testimony of the woman across the street, who claims to have heard a scream and then to have seen him stab his father through the windows of the elevated train passing by. While he is speaking, he rubs his nose where his spectacles have made indentations. This causes 9th Juror to realize that the woman also had those same marks on her nose and must have worn glasses, despite the fact that she didn’t wear them in court, presumably for her own vanity. This causes all of the jurors to question the eyesight of the woman, who may have witnessed the murder without her glasses. Based on this, 4th Juror changes his vote. 10th Juror gives up and also changes his vote to “not guilty.”

Now, the vote is 11 to 1, and 3rd Juror stands alone. At first, he stands firm, saying that he will be the holdout to make this a hung jury. He launches himself into a final massive rant against the boy that descends into nonsense. 8th and 4th Jurors make a short final plea, and 3rd Juror finally concedes, saying “All right. Not guilty.” The Foreman informs the Guard that they have reached a verdict, and the Jurors leave the courtroom.

--- Analysis of Act Two ---

Act II operates in many ways as a reversal of Act I. We see the characters reduced down to their most basic composition, based on how they process the evidence. Besides being a halfway point in the case, it marks a halfway mark in 8th Juror’s campaign to convince the other jurors of the defendant’s innocence, with a 6-6 vote taken early in the first act. Whereas in Act I, it seems like the impossible task, now they are on even footing, and the momentum is certainly on his side.

It’s very interesting that Reginald Rose does not provide us in this second act with any massive realization that would prove the innocence of the defendant. In fact, it seems that the arguments for his innocence become weaker and weaker. 8th Juror uses 4th Juror's failure to remember the names and stars of a movie to prove that it’s very easy to forget such details under great emotional stress, but meanwhile 4th Juror was able to name one of the films and comes close to being able to name the second film, in addition to who starred in it. It would seem that 4th Juror has passed 8th Juror's test, but 8th Juror is able to frame it in such a way that makes him seem correct. While clearly framing 8th Juror as the hero of the play, Rose is very conscious not to make him overwhelmingly right, to maintain a sense of doubt.

10th and 3rd Juror, the two last remaining holdouts for a guilty verdict, are brought to light in this second act. In Act I, we saw both being guided by their prejudices, but what seemed to be a gentle nod in Act I toward the subconscious psychologies of jurors comes into full view in Act II, when both are given long monologues that fully outline the prejudices that govern their decisions. 10th Juror says, “They’re against us, they hate us, they want to destroy us…There’s a danger.” This is a fascinating choice because he’s speaking about the danger of the defendant, but everyone in the room – and in the audience – realizes that 10th Juror is the actual danger. He is the one that is polluting our society and is a danger to our legal system and way of life. It’s a dangerous discovery, as it blatantly dramatizes the incredibly strong prejudices that can lay hidden in the American subconscious.

Similarly, we see that 3rd Juror, who has, despite his temper, been a somewhat coherent voice in the deliberations, is completely driven by his own demons to convict the boy, in place of his own son, with whom he has a troubled relationship. We see the layers of his decision making process peel away in his final monologue. It begins with him chronicling logically the case; however, it quickly becomes clear that he is no longer talking about the defendant. He says, “I can feel the knife goin’ in,” and we see that his personal connection and confusion about the case runs deep. Finally, the demon is named when 8th Juror says, “It’s not your boy. It’s somebody else.” 3rd Juror finally gives in to reason. The play seems to be telling us that if we recognize and name our prejudices, we are able to defeat them, and ultimately do what is right.

The theme of heat becomes apparent in this act, as the oppressive heat of Act I is cooled by the rains and the discovery of a fan in the room. It seems that as the temperature of the room decreases, so does the temperament of the jurors, and they are able to operate more rationally.

The very ending of the play, which just has the jurors walking out, shows that the play was not about the verdict and the defendant. If it were, the final scene would be the judge reading a “not guilty” verdict. However, the climax is rather 3rd Juror facing his internal conflict and winning against it. The play is about a group of men just trying to do what is right, and they ultimately succeed.