Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Elements of Gothic

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The ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ is a poem from the Romantics period in literature and is written by Coleridge who collaborated with Wordsworth on the ‘Lyrical Ballads’. It is about a Mariner who stops one of three wedding guests and tells him a story of when he set sail and all that happens. The poem meddles and swarms in the supernatural and the gothic which adds to the tension and questions surrounding the poem. As the poem is so encased in the other-worldly, we need the grounding of reality to try and collect their thoughts.

The wedding quest allows us to have this reprieve as he is questioning the mariner and keeping the reader grounded by answering some questions they may have through the wedding guest. Also, if the poem was too immersed in the supernatural then it would be completely unbelievable. At the start of the poem, the first words used are “It is”. It allows us to understand that it is in third person but as we do not know who’s talking, it adds to the mystery to the poem leaving the audience mystified from the word go.

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The line and title finish with the words “ancient Mariner” so it confirms that the mariner is they key focus and main source of all the drama and mystery to follow but by calling him “it”, it leaves the audience wondering whether he is alive or just an apparition. This helps as the mariner could be part of the gothic and other-worldly and was sent to the wedding guest as an omen in itself and to warn others when they set sail in the future. The main source of the supernatural is in the use of nature and how it interacts with man.

In Part 1, nature is supporting man’s journey and helping them with the wind blowing them in their correct direction and with the sun shining. Nature even sent the albatross, which is considered to be a very supernatural and paranormal creature, to watch over them. The mythology behind the albatross is that it is a bad omen and that if it circles a ship then bad weather will follow. It was also considered pure evil to kill one. As the original audience would have felt this way then they could sympathise ith the wedding guest when the strike of fear and the paranormal hits their hearts. The Mariner does what he thinks is best and shoots down the albatross. Unfortunately, once this happens and Part 2 starts, nature starts to change and instead of helping men and making their journey better, it makes it harder and even more difficult as it blows them into the middle of the ocean and ice and then abandons them and then uses the words “Water, water, every where,” which is repeated twice.

This allows us to see that Coleridge likes the idea that nature is more significant and important then men and that he’s using the idea of water to torment them and has the power over life and death as they are surrounded by water but its too salty to drink and that their stuck there without the wind to help and to add to the eeriness of the whole experience. Part 3 of the poem is where most of the dark and disturbing events happen as its where the audience finally becomes aware of how much time is passing and how much danger their in.

To carry on from the fact that nature is more powerful and has more power over men, it says on line 157 “With throats unslaked, with black lips baked”. As humans, we need water to survive. With their “throats unslaked”, it helps us to see the true torture they are in. For when a ship comes to rescue them, with their throats unslaked, they’ll have no voice and so cannot ask for help. “Black lips” is also another clue into the macabre of the depth of despair they must be feeling. Our lips and tongues turn black when we are dehydrated.

This is why later on in the poem he bit his arm and “I sucked the blood”. He was trying to get moisture into his system so he could live and get his body running again. On line 155, there is a mention of “water-sprite” which adds to the effects of the supernatural as they are mentioned in fairytale books and add to the mystery that is the supernatural. The water-sprite is associated with fairies and is said to be an elemental so in this case, water as they are in the ocean and are sailors.

The sentence it is used in is “As if it dodged a water-sprite,” which helps relate to the history behind the creature as they are supposed to only be violent when threatened. If the ship is described as dodging them then something very dark and scary is about to happen. In the next stanza, the supernatural take effect by mentioning “throats unslaked”, and “black lips baked” and “sucked the blood”. This is all ‘Twilight zone’ so it shows that true horror does happen. This is also a main part as it’s the first real taste of horror and death that we have encountered.

When reading this, the wedding guest, and the audience by default, are rushed with shivers and goose bumps. When a person gets dehydrated, their lips turn black and by adding “throats unslaked” just simply means their thirsty. This causes sympathy and pain in the reader and audience as it would be unimaginable pain and something no one should endure. As soon as they would hear “sucked the blood”, someone would automatically think ‘Vampire’ or ‘Creature of the night’ if we were back in the Romanticism period.

Although it may have saved this mans life as he needed moisture in his throat to alert his crew that there was another ship coming close and if blood was the only sustenance you could get then take it and save their lives. Line 1162 repeats line 157 which both are the starting lines of their stanzas. This leads to the question – why? Why repeat it? And to what effect? The desired effect that Coleridge may have been going for is to add to the suspense and to add that creepy factor into the poem and story. The wedding guest at this point would be feeling awe and maybe a little fear of the man who would drink his own blood.

I imagine that his blood would run cold at the repetition and would ponder the question but with the rapid speed and pace of the story, the question would be swept up by curiosity and by wanting to listen more. Lines 180 to 190 are all karma for killing the albatross as repeated throughout the two stanzas is the word”her” in italics signifying its importance and mysterious aroma. This leads to the idea that women are more powerful of men and that men are secretly afraid of women. It also leads to the question: is this Mother Nature coming to get them?

A few lines afterwards include the words “Woman” and most importantly “Death”. Because the two words are together, it leads to the superstition and the idea that women control men and that they are the ‘death of them’. Due to the fact that this is set in darkness allows us to imagine that something sinister and dark has come and will cause great mayhem and disaster. This sinister stanza is followed by three lines of descriptions with words such as “free”, “red”, “yellow as gold” and “white as leprosy”. By using leprosy to describe her skin, its saying that she looks sickly pale and looks like danger.

Red is also associated with danger but also passion and seduction, being tied to the description of a woman allows us to view that Coleridge maybe had a grudge against women or wanted to design his own woman who would fit into this world of mystery and of pain that he’s created. It would also fit the time period it was written in as the French revolution would be raging on and French women would have used very white powder on their faces and used the reddest lipstick to entice and capture their attention and their hearts. Coleridge could be basically describing the French and how their fighting has changed life in Europe and around the world.

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Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Elements of Gothic. (2016, Dec 22). Retrieved from


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