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

Start Free Trial

What events lead to the albatross being hung around the mariner's neck?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is an embedded narrative. The "present" of the poem is a wedding party at which one of the wedding guests is stopped by the "ancient mariner" (an old sailor) of the title. The sailor recounts the story of a past voyage during which his ship was blown off course towards Antarctica. 

During this voyage, the mariner's ship is trapped in the ice and the sailors are in great danger from the ice. While they are so trapped, an albatross, traditionally believed to be a sign of good luck, visits the ship. The sailors see this bird as a good omen and feed it. The ship is freed from the ice and begins to sail north. The albatross continues to follow the boat north and the sailors see it as the cause of favorable winds. The ancient mariner, though, in an act of random violence, shoots the albatross with his crossbow, bringing bad luck to the ship and its crew. As a result:

Instead of the cross, the Albatross

About my neck was hung [by fellow sailors].

This is done to punish him for killing the bird that had brought the ship good luck.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial