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AP Literature Review
Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Frankenstein
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
- From "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (Part II) By S. T. Coleridge
"The Rime of The Ancient Mariner"
About the Author
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) was an English lyrical poet, critic, and philosopher, whose work, a book entitled
, contributed to the English Romantic movement.
Samuel was born in the small, rural Devonshire town of Ottery St Mary in south-west England. The youngest son of the Church of England parish vicar, the boy started school in 1775. After his father's death Coleridge was sent away to Christ's Hospital School in London. The youngster was considered dreamy and eccentric by fellow schoolboys, in part because of his enthusiastic interest in metaphysics. In 1791 Coleridge entered Jesus College, but in spite of his scholastic achievements and great intelligence, he did not find the experience stimulating and left the university in 1794 without graduating.
While attending the Jesus College, he became friends the radical Robert Southey. The two young men devised a scheme to emigrate to Pennsylvania and establish there an ideal democratic community, which they termed a “Pantisocracy.” The plan required the would-be immigrants to marry; thus Coleridge became engaged to Sara Fricker, whom he did not really love.
Coleridge’s first published work, which appeared in 1796, was a collection of poems entitled
Poems on Various Subjects
(Literature Network). In that same year, he became acquainted with Dorothy and William Wordsworth. From their relationship resulted the Lyrical Ballads, which opened with Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
Over the next couple of years, Coleridge's health deteriorated. To dull the pain, doctors provided him with heavy dosages of laudanum, a narcotic. It is suggested that he may have become addicted to this drug; in any case he fell into a deep depression (Literature Guide). While in low spirits, Coleridge separated from his wife, Sara, and quarreled with Wordsworth. In 1816 Coleridge took up residence with a physician, James Gilman, in the northern suburbs of London. He prospered under Gilman's care, and entered his most sustained period of literary activity, which lasted until 1819 (Literature Guide).
The final years of Coleridge’s life were peaceful. In 1825 he was named an associate of the Royal Society of Literature, and he and Wordsworth toured the Rhineland in 1828. During this time, Coleridge loved to entertain guests in his home. William Hazlitt, in
My First Acquaintance with Poets
, reported on Coleridge's habit of dazzling visitors with his observations on literature and philosophy. He became known as the 'Sage of Highgate', and his home was the meeting place for the London literati (Literature Guide). Coleridge died in Highgate on July 25, 1834.
"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was published in 1798 in the first edition of the
.Coleridge and his colleague William Wordsworth worked together on this poem. The latter did a lot of shaping of the plot but later withdrew to allow Coleridge to complete the writing. The poem itself set out to be a ballad with ghost stories and supernatural plot lines. Coleridge intentionally used outdated spellings and diction to keep the ballad atmosphere. He based tee poem on a historical narrative of a sailor who killed an albatross and then suffered through a severe storm. His work is said to have been inspired by several historical sources. One of them was James Cook's voayge of exploration of the South Seas and the Pacific Ocean from 1772 till 1775. On his voyage, Cook traveled around the Antartic Circle to determine whether the fabled continent existed. Another is Captain George Shelvocke's 1726
A Voyage 'Round the World
, in which he describes how one of his shipmates shot an albatross that he believed had made the wind disappear (Gradesaver). The poem may also have been inspired by the legend of the Wandering Jew who was forced to wander the Earth until Judgement Day, for taunting Jesus on the day of the Crucifixion. Just like the mariner with the albatross hung around his neck, the Jew must wear a cross as a symbol of his guilt. Other sources claim that the poem was inspired by a dream of Coleridge's friend, Cruikshank, and still others believe that Coleridge wrote the strange, sensually-rich text under the influence of opium, as he did his famous "Kubla Khan."
The poem received mixed reviews from critics, and Coleridge was once told by the publisher that most of the book's sales were to sailors who thought it was a naval songbook. Coleridge made several modifications to the poem over the years. In the second edition of
in 1800, he replaced many of the archaic words (Wikipedia). Coleridge is also known for other works such as "Frost at Midnight," "The Nightingale," "Kubla Khan," and "Dejection: An Ode."
"The Rime of The Ancient Mariner" begins with a mariner meeting a man who is en route to a wedding ceremony. The mariner tells the man a story about the Mariner’s troublesome voyage, in which his ship is hit by a storm and driven south to Antarctica. While the ship is lost at sea, an albatross appears and begins to lead the ship to safety. To the crew's disappointment, the Mariner shoots the bird down, causing them to become angry at the Mariner, believing the albatross brought the South wind that led them out of Antarctica. However, their ire greatly lessens once the weather becomes warmer. The murder of the albatross enrages supernatural spirits who now turn the South wind that saved them into a wind that sends them back into dangerous waters. Upon this bad luck, the crew once again turns on the Mariner and blames him for their thirst. Metaphorically, the Mariner has a albatross around his neck. Later in the poem, the ship comes upon a ghost ship which contains both “Death” and “Night-Mare Life-in-Death. The two figures are rolling dice for the souls of the crew. “Death” wins the life of the crew members, while the counterpart wins the life of the Mariner. This is an obvious foreshadowing of the Mariner’s future as he will encounter a fate much worse than that of the crew, due to his murder of the albatross. Eventually, all of the crew members die off, but the Mariner lives on, having to see the curse in their eyes for seven days. Only when he finally sees the sea creatures as beautiful is the Mariner’s curse broken, and the metaphoric albatross falls from his neck. The bodies of the crew come back to life and begin to sail the ship home, where it sinks in a whirlpool, leaving only the Mariner behind. To make up for his deed, the Mariner must wander the earth and tell his story, in order to teach a lesson to those he meets.
The Natural World: The Physical
: Coleridge emphasizes the immense power that nature has over man as well as its natural beauty.
The Spiritual World: The Metaphysical
: In an attempt to prove that the Albatross is a physical creature rather than simply a spiritual being, the mariner shoots it down, effectively killing it. There are also many allusions to the religion, the mariner preaching a closeness to God through prayer and through kindness and respect to all creatures.
: (a place on the edge of two realms or between two realms) The liminal space in the Rime is the equator, which is the space between the north and south hemispheres. Immediately after crossing this border, the sailors encounter the storm which is what causes them to lose their way.
: The boat is initially free on the wide seas, but as soon as the storm drives them off course they become surrounded by ice that is described as "mast high" and since they are unable to maneuver out of the ice that is blocking their way out, they are effectively trapped and their fates lie in the hands of nature.
: Coleridge focuses on retribution with the mariner because he is destined to remain wandering throughout the world and recounting his story to those he meets simply due to the impulsive mistake that he made of shooting the albatross.
The Act of Storytelling
: Certain interruptions within the poem remind the reader that the mariner is recounting his story to a the Wedding Guest within the poem rather than just the reader.
Romanticism was a period of political, social, philosophical, and religious turmoil in the late eighteenth century. Seeing themselves as visionaries, Romantic writers believed that they could look beyond ordinary life and decide a man's fate in a changing world. It emphasizes vast universes with desolate settings of icebound seas, jagged mountains, and bottomless abysses, which help set the mood for the character's personal torment.
vs. "The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner"
Shelley and Coleridge both create very similar settings. Both pieces of literature are characteristic of the Romantic period and describe vividly nature and the outdoors. Frankenstein and the mariner play very similar roles, as well as the albatross and the creature. The fate of the crew members in Thje Rime of The Ancient Mariner was in the hands of the albatross. This bird decided which crew members were to live and which ones were subject to death. Ironically, the entire crew in the poem were killed and the only man who survived was the mariner.
"I am going to unexplored regions, to "the land of mist and snow;" but i shall kill no albatross, therefore do not be alarmed for my safety, or if i should come back to you as worn and woeful as the "Ancient Mariner?" (pg 16-17 Letter II).
Here Walton is making a blatant reference to "The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner." He is referring to the part of the story in which the Mariner shoots down the Albatross, which causes his downfall and that of his crew. This correlates to
in a sense that the creature had the ultimate control over the human population. It was in his power to kill whomever he chooses to. Just like the mariner was given a second chance to redeem himself and rid his sins for killing the albatross, Frankenstein was given another chance to give the creature what he ultimately wanted- another one of his kind. Right after Victor ran away in terror after he saw his creation for the first time, he wanders the streets alone with his conscience.
"Like one who, on a lonely road, Doth walk in fear and dread, And, having once turned round, walks on, And turns no more his head; Because he knows a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread"(Shelley, 53).
At this point "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is referenced because similarly, in this work the person wanders the streets with a demon or fiend following him. In a romantic sense, the mariner and Victor both want knowledge. They both are trying to get their thoughts straight across. However, unlike the mariner, Victor's new knowledge brings a curse along with it. Victor's life is similar to "Nightmare-Life-In-Death" because he really has no one he loves left. On top of that, he is the reason for the deaths of all his loved ones. Frankenstein wants to die at this point, but he wants to finish what he started. Additionally, they are both living with the knowledge no one else possesses and the hatred towards their respective creatures. Frankenstein is constantly battling the creature and torturing himself throughout the novel.
"All men hate the wretched; how, then, must i be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator detest and spurn me..." (Shelley 88)
In this quote Shelley is making a statement on the inherent beauty of all living things. She believes that all living creatures have a certain beauty, not matter what. Similarly, Coleridge made this statement by using the albatross. The Mariner's punishment for shooting down the albatross was living Life-in-Death. In the above quote, the creature speaks of how humans hate the wretched, simply because they are wretched. Men look at the creature and automatically think he is the lowest life-form. Even his creator looks at him and cannot stand the sight of him.
"Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink. The very deep did rot: O Christ! That ever this should be! Yes, slimy things did crawl with legs Upon the slimy sea" (Coleridge pt. II, st. 9)
This quote shows The Mariner's outlook on nature in the beginning of the poem. The Mariner refers to the creatures of the sea as "slimy things," which obviously has a negative connotation. However, once Coleridge teaches his character the lesson of the inherent beauty in nature, the Mariner learns that all creatures are beautiful. In Shelley's piece, which also has this theme, it seems that Frankenstein really never learns this lesson, while the creature does seem to grasp this concept.
"I beheld those I loved spend vain sorrow upon the graves of William and Justine, the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts" (Shelley 79).
This quote shows Shelley's theme of how devastating the consequences can be for one single unthinking act. Obviously, Victor's single unthinking act was his creation of the creature. When he made this creature, there is no way that he thought he would kill two of his closest loved ones, and later kill more. However, it happened and Shelley is showing us how devastating the effects can be. Similarly, in
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
, The Mariner also suffers for a single, unthinking act. His act was the killing of the albatross. He paid for it in more than one way. First, he was sent to a Life-in-Death, then after he repented, his ship sunk with his crew. To top it off, he was forced to wander the earth, telling his story in order to teach people about the beauty of creatures, for the rest of his life.
includes a number of the themes that are encompassed in the Rime. Both contain the theme of the act of storytelling because although the reader hardly notices, both works are written in such a way that the story is told by one character to another, with periodic interruptions to remind the reader of this fact; the mariner is telling his story to the Wedding Guest and Victor is telling his story to Walton.
also contains the theme of the natural world, where both the creature and Victor spend much of their time in nature, the creature having to learn how to survive and Victor simply taking pleasure in its beauty.
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