Both of these works are key entries in the Romantic literary movement. The Romantics emphasized the sublime, the supernatural, and madness in their creative output. Frankenstein was written and published relatively late in the Romantic movement, while "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" was released right in the movement's heyday in the late eighteenth century, but the two share common aesthetic and technical affinities.
Frankenstein takes quite a bit from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," particularly its narrative framing structure. The Mariner in the present tells his story to those who will listen at the wedding, while Victor tells the events of Frankenstein as he is chasing the creature down in the North Pole.
Both works also revel in the sublime—a Romantic notion of the individual's feelings of being overwhelmed in the face of the greatness of the natural world. The Mariner, at first feeling superior to the sea and animals, comes to recognize the holiness of nature when he is alone on the ship, lost in the middle of a dangerous but immensely gorgeous ocean. The Creature feels awe at nature as well when he is wandering through the wilderness without a parental figure to guide him into the world.
Both works also share a sense of the supernatural. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is packed with ghostly imagery, and the Mariner's experiences have a strong supernatural bent to them. Frankenstein is classically characterized as science fiction, but Victor's interest in alchemy and the mysterious circumstances under which he brings his creation to life evoke the idea of medieval sorcery. (Coincidentally, the Middle Ages were of great interest to the Romantics, who often idealized past eras.)
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein makes many direct references and allusions to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."
The first comparison comes from the way the narratives are told through their points of view. Robert Walton’s letters recount the story of Victor Frankenstein’s attempt to circumvent God to bring life to a sapient creature, while the Mariner stops a wedding guest to explain a story from earlier in his life when he violated the law of nature and killed an albatross on a voyage, which resulted in a curse befalling his crew. In both cases, the audience is hearing a retelling of the original stories.
Secondly, both are written in a classic Romantic style, with significant emphasis placed on vivid descriptions of nature.
Perhaps the most significant comparison is between Victor and the Mariner and their hubris-driven quest for knowledge. For Victor, this quest leads him from being an innocent, inherently good character to a short-tempered and vengeful man. For the Mariner, he must suffer for his crimes against nature as his crew dies and he is left to wander, telling his tale to whoever will listen. It’s interesting to note that their hubris drives the protagonists to distinctly opposite actions, with one bringing life into the world and one removing life from the world.
Mary Shelley’s novel includes direct references to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem and employs some of the same themes—notably the high cost of hubris. Part of the novel’s setting is also parallel to that of the poem.
The character Robert Walton refers to the Ancient Mariner as a character and to the poem’s setting. Specifying the similarity of his sojourn in the frozen wastelands, Walton also expresses his suspicion that upon his return, he might also resemble the Mariner in a “worn and woeful” state.
The similarities between Victor Frankenstein and the Mariner are even more pronounced. Both characters are solitary in their emotional and mental attitudes, and both reject society’s advice about the likely dangers of their actions.
An interesting inverted parallel is drawn in that Victor creates life (that of the creature), whereas the Mariner takes life (that of the albatross). In both cases, however, the reasons for their actions are fundamentally the same: overreaching pride, or hubris, which makes them insensible to the prohibitions against their action. Victor knows that meddling with God’s work is wrong, but he cannot stop himself. The Mariner understands that his fellow sailors have the benefit of experience, but he believes his reasoning is superior to their superstition. In both cases, their rashness calls down a set of catastrophes on others as well as themselves.
Mary Shelley herself, along with numerous critics, has acknowledged her debt to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" in her Frankenstein. Clearly, the epic of damnation and redemption influenced the impressionable teenage author of a novel with a similar theme. But another reason for the allusive presence of the poem in the novel can be summed up in one word: admonition. Both "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" - told by the hapless seafarer to the captive audience of the Wedding Guest - and Frankenstein - ensconced in the letters of Robert Walton - are told from the second person point of view, the narrative of warning, prohibition and responsibility. Frankenstein's second person narrative, and the many allusions to "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is likely Mary Shelley's warning to the reader. But about what is the warning? The answer can be found in the direct reference to Coleridge's poem in the words of Robert Walton: he goes “to the land of mist and snow,” yet he swears that he shall “kill no albatross” nor, says he, shall he return “as worn and woeful as the ‘Ancient Mariner’”. His promise, like the grandiose quest of Victor Frankenstein, is ironic. Both men are carried away by a hubristic search for knowledge. It is only by listening to Frankenstein's cautionary tale about the cost of wresting the secret of life from God that Walton is dissuaded from playing God with the lives of his fellow-travelers. He turns back from his pursuit of personal glory, the fate of the ancient marier ringing in his ears.