Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
The Ancient Mariner
The Ancient Mariner, a somewhat mysterious figure. The poem deals with two separate times, the time of the voyage and the time of the Mariner’s retelling. Facts helping to date the time of the voyage are that the Mariner uses a crossbow rather than a firearm and that his ship is the first ever to sail into the Pacific Ocean, thereby preceding Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage of 1520. He is evidently a Catholic, because he twice calls on the Virgin Mary and also invokes other saints. As for the time of the retelling, there is only a general sense that the Mariner is perceived as belonging to an earlier generation. There is not enough information about the wedding to know whether it was Catholic or Protestant, and the vesper bell toward the end of the poem could belong to either faith. The bassoon mentioned toward the beginning, however, would not have been possible before the sixteenth century. In a fragment of conversation recovered in the twentieth century, Samuel Taylor Coleridge once remarked that the Mariner was in fact a young man while on board the ship and that he was retelling the story fifty years later.
The Wandering Jew
The Wandering Jew, a traditional figure in European literature. He is a blasphemer condemned to wander the earth until the second coming of Christ because he had mocked Christ while He was bearing the Cross on his way to Calvary. The legend was believed in late medieval Europe, and several accounts of supposed meetings with the Wandering Jew were published, beginning in the sixteenth century. Several writers of the Romantic period then took up the idea, making it central to their theme of social and spiritual alienation, a burden felt by Coleridge also. Coleridge was himself known to be an incessant talker.
The Wedding Guest
The Wedding Guest, one of three “gallants,” or fashionable young men particularly attentive to women, whom the Mariner accosts while they are on their way to...
(The entire section is 822 words.)
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