illustration of the Ancient Mariner in the ocean with an albatross tied around his neck

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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What is the significance of the dead sea and the rotting which occurs so frequently throughout the poem?

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In many ways they serve to act as the outside symbol of the rotting going on within the mariner himself.  After he has killed the albatross, everything for him, inside and out, begins a process of accelerated decay.  The rotting and stinking matter in the sea and on the boat serve as indicators of this.

In the end, the rotted and broken down things actually come back together with the internal rot inside of the man as they serve to, in some ways, comfort him and allow him to speak out the rot inside of him in a prayer for relief.  This begins a final change in the atmosphere of the play as the setting becomes once again lush and the rotting creatures and stink disappear to in some wasy signify the redemption.

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