Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men was originally broadcast as a television play in 1954. It is now regarded as one of the greatest courtroom dramas of all time. The twelve jurors in Rose's play must determine if the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of murdering his father. Tensions arise as each man brings his own personal experiences and biases into the jury room.

Before reading this play, students should already have a sound understanding of the United States' judicial system. Providing background information on seminal court cases throughout the country's history could be beneficial for students who are unfamiliar with how the courts operate.

The teacher should promote open discussion of each juror's perspective, so students can understand how personal prejudices and different ways of thinking can influence others who have an important decision to make. Watching Sidney Lumet's film or the original telecast after reading the play will help students conceptualize how the text of a play or screenplay comes to life.

Summary of Twelve Angry Men

Key Facts

  • Publication Date: 1954
  • Length: 63 pages
  • Recommended Grade Band: 9-10
  • Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written Drama (1958)
  • Edgar Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay (1958)

Twelve jurors must decide the fate of a young man accused of murdering his father. The jurors argue over the defendant's fate, each man bringing his own perspective into the mix. They must deliberate over the evidence they've received until they decide on a verdict. Is the young man guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

Content Warning: Twelve Angry Men contains discussion of murder and some mild profanity.

What Your Students Will Love About Twelve Angry Men

  • The way Juror No. 8 dissents and uses logic to undermine the other jurors' thinking
  • How the play reflects our country's justice system and what it takes to find someone guilty of a serious crime

Potential Student Struggles With Twelve Angry Men

  • All of the jurors are assigned numbers instead of names, making it difficult to keep track of who is who
  • The dated or old-fashioned language with which the characters speak

Learning Objectives for Twelve Angry Men

  • Identify the protagonist and the main antagonist in the play, and discuss the nature of their conflict.
  • Analyze the characteristics and influences of each juror.
  • Identify the dramatic climax at the end of each act.
  • Obtain a deeper understanding of the United States' legal system.
  • Define the term "stereotype," and explain how stereotypes are used in the play.

Literary Elements in Twelve Angry Men

  • Conflict
  • Dialogue
  • Dramatic Irony
  • Exposition
  • Foil
  • Foreshadowing
  • Stage Directions
  • Symbolism
  • And more!

Major Themes in Twelve Angry Men

Justice — The twelve jurors must make a decision that will ensure justice is served; they must decide whether the defendant should be condemned to death.

Related Works:

Prejudice and Personal Bias — Several jurors have personal prejudices that influence their opinion of the defendant and the crime he's alleged to have committed.

Related Works:

American Society — A trial by jury is considered one of those most important elements of American democracy. The jury reflects the many opinions and tensions that arise among the country's citizens.

Related Works:

Other Resources for Twelve Angry Men

Order Twelve Angry Men Resources from Prestwick House

Resource Format
Twelve Angry Men Paperback Student Edition
Twelve Angry Men Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Twelve Angry Men Activity Pack Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Twelve Angry Men Response Journal Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Twelve Angry Men Complete Teacher's Kit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set

This free guide was originally posted in December 2017. It has been updated as of October 2020.