The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner | Character Analysis


Wedding Guest

The Wedding Guest is a man on his way to a wedding and is in a hurry to attend the festivities. He attempts to get away from the Mariner several times before the sailor begins to tell his tale but is always stopped by the Mariner's presence. At several points during the Mariner's tale, he interjects to ask questions and to comment on the Mariner's expression. He is deeply affected by the Mariner and what he has to tell him, despite being unwilling to listen at first. When the Mariner offers his moral, the Wedding Guest doesn't even go to the festivities; instead he returns home to think on what the Mariner told him. He awakes the next morning greatly changed by the experience.


The Mariner was once a sailor, part of a crew of a sailing ship. During a sea voyage he, along with the ship, is stranded in the ice of the South Pole. It is only when an Albatross appears that the ice breaks and the ship is freed. The Mariner befriends the bird—it comes at his call. But then, for some unknown reason, he shoots and kills the Albatross. By killing the innocent creature, he sets in motion a string of horrors. His crew dies, but he lives on with his sin. It is only when he accepts that the bird was part of God's great creation that he is partially absolved of his sin. But his penance is not done even with that realization. He must tell his story far and wide before moving on again. His is compelled into an act of confession by a supernatural force that even decides who he should tell the tale to.


The Albatross functions more as a symbol than a character, but its death brings about the Mariner's eventual awakening to the sublime beauty and power of God's creations. It is an innocent creature that did not deserve the wrong done to it, and the Mariner is punished for his sin.


She is the personification of life-in-death. She arrives in a tattered, ghostly vessel with Death, and she wins the Mariner's soul during a dice game. She is described as being both beautiful and terrible. While only in the poem a short time, she still has power over the Mariner and his narrative. He cannot die, even going seven days and nights without food and water. It is her influence that keeps him in this limbo. Even still, we must wonder how old the Mariner is and how long he has been telling his story to strangers. Can he ever die? Since Life-in-Death won his soul, it would seem he must go through eternity, unable to die like everyone else.

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