The poem's protagonist. He is unnaturally old, with skinny, deeply-tanned limbs and a "glittering eye." He sets sail from his native country with two hundred other men who are all saved from a strange, icy patch of ocean when they are kind to an Albatross that lives there. Impulsively and inexplicably, he shoots the Albatross with his crossbow and is punished for his crime by a spirit who loved the Albatross. He is cursed to be haunted indefinitely by his dead shipmates, and to be compelled to tell the tale of his downfall at random times. Each time he is compelled to share his story with someone, he feels a physical agony that is abated only temporarily once he finishes telling the tale.
One of three people on their way to a wedding reception; he is next of kin to the bridegroom. The Ancient Mariner stops him, and despite his protests compels him to sit and listen to the entirety of his story. He is afraid of the Ancient Mariner and yearns to join the merriment of the wedding celebration, but after he hears the Ancient Mariner's story, he becomes both "sadder and...wiser."
Two hundred seamen who set sail with the Ancient Mariner one clear, sunny day and find themselves in the icy world of the "rime" after a storm, from which the Albatross frees them. They feed and play with the Albatross until the Ancient Mariner inexplicably kills it. They begin to suffer from debilitating heat and thirst. They hang the Albatross's corpse around the Ancient Mariner's neck to punish him. When Life-in-Death wins the Ancient Mariner's soul, the sailors' souls are left to Death and they curse the Ancient Mariner with their eyes before dying suddenly. Even though their souls fly out, their bodies refuse to rot and lie open-eyed on the deck, continuously cursing the Ancient Mariner. After the rain returns, the sailors come alive and silently man the ship, singing beautiful melodies. When the ship reaches the harbor, they once again curse the Ancient Mariner with their eyes and then disappear, leaving only their corpses behind. The Ancient Mariner is destined to suffer the curse of a living death and continually be haunted by their cursing eyes.
A great, white sea bird that presumably saves the sailors from the icy world of the "rime" by allowing them to steer through the ice and sending them a good, strong wind. The Albatross, however, also makes a strange mist follow the ship. It flies alongside the ship, plays with the sailors, and eats their food, until the Ancient Mariner shoots it with his crossbow. Its corpse is hung around the Ancient Mariner's neck as a reminder of his crime and falls off only when he is able to appreciate the beauty of nature and pray once more. The Albatross is loved by a powerful spirit who wreaks havoc on and kills the sailors while leaving the Ancient Mariner to the special agony of Life-in-Death.
Embodied in a hulking form on the ghost ship. He loses at dice to Life-in-Death, who gets to claim the Ancient Mariner's soul; instead, Death wins the two hundred sailors.
The Night-mare Life-in-Death
Embodied in a beautiful, naked, ghostly woman with golden hair and red lips. She wins at dice over Death and gets to claim the Ancient Mariner's soul, condemning him to a limbo-like living death.
The captain of the small boat that rows out to the Ancient Mariner's ship. He loses his mind when the Ancient Mariner abruptly comes to life and begins to row his boat.
The assistant to the Pilot; he rows the small boat. He loses his mind when the Ancient Mariner, whom he thinks is dead, abruptly comes to life and takes the oars from him.
A recluse who prays three times a day and lives in communion with nature in the woods. He accompanies the Pilot and the Pilot's boy on the small boat because "he loves to talk with mariners / from a far countree." The Ancient Mariner reveres the Hermit as a righteous and holy man, and asks him to absolve him of his sin. The Hermit is the first person to whom the Ancient Mariner is compelled to tell his tale.
One of two voices presumably belonging to a spirit. The Ancient Mariner hears the First Voice after he is knocked unconscious when the ship jolts forward. He explains that the Ancient Mariner offended a spirit by killing the Albatross, because the spirit loved the bird. Other than this moment, the First Voice relies on the Second Voice to explain the Ancient Mariner's situation to him.
The second of two voices presumably belonging to a spirit. The Second Voice is softer than the First Voice-"as soft as honey-dew"-and more knowledgeable. He explains to the First Voice that the Ancient Mariner will pay for his crime much more dearly than he already has. Even though the First Voice tells the Second Voice that the Ancient Mariner angered a spirit who loved the Albatross, the latter explains that the Moon and air move the ship in lieu of wind, and not the spirit who loved the Albatross. Then he urges the First Voice onward, as they are hurrying somewhere.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The first scene takes place just outside the place a wedding is being celebrated. The character are the Mariner and the guests, who are on their way to a wedding. Thus, the Mariner is delaying the guest in order to tell his story.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge.