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Monday, December 9, 2013

Are You As Smart As a High Schooler? Rime edition

by Jessica Goldschmidt


Remember close reading? Thematic analysis? The difference between simile and metaphor?

Sure you do.

In preparation for this week's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (unofficially the first-ever poem in the English Romantic canon, for those of you taking notes), we invite you to pit wits with school kids and see where you fall. Below are a few sample questions from our Rime study guide, which we offer free to every class attending the performance at BAM (the complete and beautifully designed guide is available here).

English majors and Rime ticket holders, it's time to cram. And see how you fare with this sampling of questions. "Fear not, fear not thou Wedding Guest ... "
  1. The message that we need to treat Nature with humility and respect has taken on new meaning in this era of climate change. Might today’s albatross be an oil-slick-covered gull? How does Rime portray the relationship between Man and Nature, especially as viewed through the lens of the ideals of Romanticism?
  2. While Coleridge explicitly compares the albatross to a Christian soul, the case of the Mariner is more complex. Is he Adam, committing an original sin by killing the bird? Is he Jesus, who shoulders the burden of sin for all? Is he Cain, forced to wander in anguish for his crime? 
  3. Coleridge may have viewed his own addiction to opium as a “life-in-death.” Our popular culture is replete with characters like zombies and vampires who straddle the line between life and death. How does Coleridge’s personification of “Life-in-Death” as a beautiful woman compare with these ideas?
  4. It was Fiona Shaw’s inspiration to turn Rime into a performance piece. However, in a way, the poem always was a performance piece, with the Mariner telling his story to the Wedding Guest. Coleridge could simply have told us the Mariner’s tale himself; why do you think he chose to have us watch the Mariner tell his tale to a stranger?
  5. Before Coleridge’s time, most poets would choose a verse structure (like a Shakespearean sonnet, for example) and stick with it for a whole poem. In Rime Coleridge keeps changing the length of his verses, his rhyme patterns and his meter (the number of “beats” in each line). Why do you think Coleridge chose this more free, spontaneous style, and what impact does this have on our enjoyment of the poem? 

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