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 causes the mariner's sufferings in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"?

Expert Answers

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

The answer to this question can be found at the very end of Part I and is reinforced at the beginning of Part II. At the end of Part I of this excellent ballad, the Ancient Mariner tells the Wedding Guest that he "shot the albatross," which was the catalyst that triggered off his subsequent disasters. Consider the following stanzas from the beginning of Part II and the way that they immediately indicate that something has gone very wrong indeed:

And I had done a hellish thing,

And it would work 'em woe:

For all averred, I had killed the bird

That made the breeze to blow.

Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,

That made the breeze to blow!

It is therefore the Mariner's act of unthinkingly killing the albatross that causes the deadly predicament that both he and his fellow sailors face. It is this act that has so offended the "polar spirit" that nature itself, personified in this form, takes his revenge on not just the Mariner, but all of his fellow sailors as well.

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