“Rime of the Ancient Mariner” a Poem by Samuel Coleridge Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: May 20th, 2020


This essay explores elements of Gothic traditions in the poem, Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Coleridge uses elements of Gothic traditions to explain strange occurrences in his poem. Gothic style involves the use of grotesque images, settings, violent scenes, and strange mood and horrifying experiences. In this poem, some of the elements that capture the Gothic traditions include terrifying weather, the spirit, the female known as Life-in-Death and Death, snow, the Albatross (a bird of good luck), the strange speech of the mariner, deaths, and madness of the crewmembers.

This essay shall explore three elements of Gothic tradition in the poem, which include the analysis of setting, death, and dream.

Elements of Gothic tradition

The Setting

Coleridge sets his poem in antartica and outside a weeding hall. However, it is the antartica where we notice supernatural elements. The place of is full of ice. The poet’s description of the ice creates scary images and highlights potential danger that is only possible in a supernatural setting. He writes, “It cracked and growled, and roared and howled, like noises in a swound!” (Coleridge 1).

We have to look at events that occur at the ocean in order to understand supernatural elements. For instance, the wind takes the ship toward the South Pole. At this point, Coleridge portrays mysterious events after the mariner kills the Albatross. For instance, “the wind goes still, the ocean becomes calm, dead flat, and changes color, the sun turns red, and mysterious and icy creatures appear” (Coleridge 7). Coleridge notes that the ocean was “still and awful red as the charmed water burned always, and brackish swamp” (Coleridge 8).

This setting captures elements of Gothic tradition. Coleridge achieves this by creating mysterious, terrifying, and strange phenomena at the ocean.

Death and decay

The marine claims that 200 men died at the ocean one by one, “Four times fifty living men, with heavy thump, a lifeless lump, they dropped down one by one” (Coleridge 6).

Gothic tradition involves the use of death that happens in most mysterious circumstances. Only the mariner survived at the ocean out of the 200 crewmembers. Coleridge uses death to paint a grotesque image. The events of deaths make the mariner terrified because he must deal with supernatural forces like Life-in-Death. Life-in-Death scares the mariner especially when she rolls dice with death. The mariner says “We listen’d and look’d sideways up! Fear at my heart, as at a cup, My life-blood seem’d to sip!” (Coleridge 10). The mariner scares the Wedding-Guest with his death story and his physiques as the Wedding-Guest says, “I fear thee, ancient Mariner! I fear thee and thy glittering eye, and thy skinny hand, so brown” (Coleridge 10).

Death and decay are inevitable in Gothic tradition, and we can see consequences of suffering the mariner must endure. The mariner must endure such suffering because he killed Albatross (a bird of good omen). He must face strange and supernatural phenomena as a form of penance. It is strange how the dead crewmembers woke up to control the ghostly ship.


Dream is also a part of Gothic tradition, and Coleridge uses it as an element of transition. The mariner falls asleep after Albatross falls off his neck. He says, “Oh sleep! It is a gentle thing, Beloved from pole to pole!” (Coleridge 11). The act of falling asleep leads to a dream, “I dreamt that they were filled with dew; and when I awoke, it rained” (Coleridge 11).

After this dream, the mariner notices transformation in nature and dead crewmembers. For instance, “They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose, nor spake, nor moved their eyes; It had been strange, even in a dream, to have seen those dead men rise” (Coleridge 11). The loud wind does not “reach the ship and yet it moves” (Coleridge 11).

This dream reveals reality to the mariner that he has survived, but it is strange that the dead crewmembers help him to control the ship. Besides, the wind blows, but it does not reach the ship. Coleridge uses the dream to advance terrific experiences of the mariner and create tension before we can realize that the mariner is hedging to safety after penance. As a result, the dream also contributes to the mystery of the poem.


Coleridge uses The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to capture strange, mysterious, and horror aspects of the Gothic tradition. The poet uses both romantic and horrific elements to create a stunning work of literature. This essay captures the most important elements of Gothic tradition such as the horrific deaths of sailors, the terrifying representation on nature, colors of the ocean, and Albatross on the neck of the mariner.

The mariner suffers a curse after shooting Albatross at the ocean. He must experience horrors because of his action. However, he survives death and lives to recount his experience from land to land. Coleridge shows that the world has strange phenomena that can occur due to simple actions men. Coleridge combines both real events of the land and horrors of the ocean to demonstrate both romanticism and Gothic tradition.

Works Cited

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. n.d. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Web.

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