Topics for Discussion
1. A wedding guest who does not know the mariner is forced to listen to his tale. Is this device effective? Is the guest meant to guide the reader's response to the mariner's tale?
2. A wedding is a social celebration of natural order and of new beginnings. Why is it significant that the mariner tells his story to a wedding guest? Would the moral of the story have been changed if the mariner told his tale to the groom or bride?
3. In later versions of the poem, Coleridge removed many archaic words and spellings that appeared in the original version. Among his revisions was the addition of the epigraph and the marginal glosses. How important are the glosses to your understanding of the poem? Does this suggest that Coleridge was successful or unsuccessful in conveying his meaning poetically?
4. Many Romantics believed that a writer could only write when inspired to do so. What do Coleridge's revisions of this poem indicate about the importance of editing in the writing process?
5. Why does the mariner kill the albatross? Is his action a typically human response or trait? Why does Coleridge spend comparatively little time describing the incident?
6. What is the significance of the albatross being hung around the mariner's neck?
7. The ancient mariner's shipmates all die fairly unpleasant deaths. Is it fair that they should suffer because of his actions?
8. At the beginning of part 4, the wedding guest interrupts the mariner's story to express his fears. Why does Coleridge not have the mariner tell his tale straight through?
9. What is the importance of the line, "I looked to heaven, and tried to pray" (1. 244)?
10. Discuss the meaning and importance of the last eight lines of the poem. Is there a moral to this poem? Where is it explicitly stated?