How to Teach "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

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    • 1). Explore the themes in the poem. Encourage the students to express what they think the albatross represents and how that fits into the mariner's unthinking destruction of the albatross that dooms the crew. Talk about the Romantic idea that creation and destruction are contained within each other and how Coleridge addresses that concept. Discuss the idea of the mariner's consequences for killing the albatross and his subsequent regeneration, citing specific passages from the text. Discuss the mariner's penance of living the rest of his life having to warn others not to do what he has done. Ask questions such as, "What do you think the mariner has done?" "What is the significance of the mariner having to wear the albatross around his neck?" and "What does his warning mean for the rest of us?"

    • 2). Discuss the literary qualities of the poem. Talk about Coleridge's use of symbolism and imagery. Discuss the "language of real life" that Coleridge and his contemporaries used in the form of the lyrical ballad. Discuss the rhythm and rhyme choices that Coleridge used for the poem.

    • 3). Explore the social concepts of the poem. What does the story have to say about man's relationship with nature? What is the lesson that the mariner has learned, a lesson he feels is important enough to bequeath to mankind? What does the story have to say about Christianity and the supernatural?

    • 4). Talk about the cultural and historical context of the poem. This poem was written during an important time in history, when the Romantic and Naturalist movements were active in Western society. Talk about Coleridge's life and his relationship with the poet William Wordsworth. Talk about the political atmosphere of England at the time Coleridge was writing and how this is reflected in the poem.

    • 5). Assign a writing project. There are plenty of prompts that would be appropriate to explore in a paper. Such assignments could include writing about the historical relevance of the poem, the use of specific symbolism and imagery, the Christian elements and the literary devices used. Another idea would be to have the students write a poem in the style of the Lyrical Ballad.

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