The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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There are three speakers: the mariner, the marginal gloss, and Coleridge. What are each of their purposes and understandings in the poem? My professor stated that each of the speakers had a...

There are three speakers: the mariner, the marginal gloss, and Coleridge. What are each of their purposes and understandings in the poem?

My professor stated that each of the speakers had a different layer of understanding: the poet (Coleridge) understands the story and the message of the story, the mariner does not understand the story, and the gloss is trying to understand it but can't handle "causality." She stated that the moral is not just about appreciating God's creatures, but understanding that things are subject to chance, fate, motive, reason, and cause. Could someone explain what is meant by this? Thank you so much!

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Name VonRueden eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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My suggestion is that it may not be best to view the layers of the poem in rigid divisions. For instance, with regard to "causality," I'm not sure that any of the three "layers" understand it—but all three may be trying to do so. The central moment that drives the whole narrative is the killing of the albatross. If any "message" stands out before the rest, it is arguably the mystery of the Mariner's act. Is there a cause? This question is at the heart of the Romantic vision, which characterizes man and the universe as irrational and inexplicable.

It also specifically relates to the nature of the ballad form from which this poem derives; in ballads, some mysterious event occurs which is stated outright, although no one in the world of the poem can understand its causality (e.g., this occurs in "Lord Randall and Fair Annet," "Edward, Edward," and "Thomas the Rhymer," to name a few). This allusion is in-keeping with Romantic literature's tendency to recreate and/or rethink...

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Kristy Wooten eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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