The Deception and Deceit of Supernatural Commitment: A Study of the Transgressions of The Monk and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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As the Mariner in Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Ambrosio in The Monk make critical errors in their decision making, elements of the supernatural are introduced to remind and punish them of their transgressions. The Mariner, tormented by a curse and doomed by his mistake, further plagues society through his story telling. The Monk, trying to fulfill his sordid desires through sorcery, only obliterates the societies religious structure and law. Both of these characters meet their demise and bring about the decline of the communities they live in through their iniquities and supernatural involvement.

The Mariner, because he shot the good omen bird, is under a curse to harass society with his ghostly tale. When he tells his story, he plagues each new listener with remorse and depression, leaving each new town more melancholy then the next. The Mariner tells his story to a wedding-guest who is celebrating the wedding of a relative.

After the story is told, the guest becomes forsaken and depressed. “He went like one that hath been stunned, / And is of sense forlorn; / A sadder and a wiser man, / He rose the morrow morn.” (Coleridge, ll 622 – 625). The Mariner cares not for the merriment and tranquillity of his listener. His only concern is to tell his tale which burns in his soul until relieved. The wedding-guest’s mood and character becomes despondent and dejected, and he no longer desires the enjoyment of a wedding feast.

The Mariner’s ‘glittering eye’ suggests a supernatural power he holds over his listeners. Whoever listens is held spellbound and hypnotised until he is finished telling his story. The wedding guest fears the Mariner ‘whose eye is bright’ because it is unnatural and abnormal. This irregularity causes the wedding guest to suspect the Mariners mortality. “He holds him with his glittering eye– / The wedding-guest stood still, / And listens like a three years’ child: / The Mariner hath his will.” (Coleridge, ll 13 – 16). This “glittering eye” accompanies the Mariners curse to relate his tale. This power holds a person’s attention and audience “like a three years’ child”, and he is able to tell his story and leave a lasting immpression because of this endowment. The Mariner’s listeners are left sullen and forsaken, never to regain their peace of mind because of the effects of this supernatural power.

As the Monk sank further into the depths of sorcery, he had no idea the consequences it would inflict. Unaware of his impending doom, Ambrosio frolicked in his iniquities and rejoiced in his greedy accomplishments. He destroyed the lives of two outstanding citizens using his new power, and did not care about the repercussions of his actions.

“Of his fondness for Antonia, none but the grosser particles remained; he longed for the possession of her person; and even the gloom of the vault, the surrounding silence, and the resistance which he expected from her, seemed to give a fresh edge to his fierce and unbridled desires.” (Lewis, 319).

Ambrosio forged Antonia’s death and killed her mother, solely so that he could have his way with her. Blinded by lust, he did not consider the consequences of his rash behaviour. The Monk had no regard for the ruin of Antonia because his self interests were his only concern. The fate of Antonia was to spend the rest of her life in a dungeon, forgotten, unloved and shamed. This was the price for a few moments of Ambrosio’s lust, and it was not until after the crime was consummated did he realize and witness the anguish and destruction of his impulsiveness.

The Monk’s weakness is further emphasized in the decision he makes on the eve of his execution. Throwing away the base of his entire life and existance by forsaking his god, Ambrosio’s wickedness and corruption is finalized when he signs the devils contract. ‘“I am yours for ever, and irrevocably!” cried the monk wild with terror: “I abandon all claim to salvation. I own no power but yours…Oh! Save me! Bear me away!”’ (Lewis, 360). In his fear and trepidation, Ambosio seeks any escape possible. However, the devil’s contract granted him freedom from the prison, but not freedom from death, and he perished a soul lost forever from god. All of the Monk’s attempts at using witchcraft to execute his will had failed, and rather than learning his lesson, Ambrosio still trusted in the devil to save his meaningless life. The extent of his deficiency and feebleness are signified in this final act, and Ambrosio’s dying thought was that his agonies had only just begun.

The Monk’s greedy ambitions cause the downfall of the monastic respect and legacy of Madrid. His selfish actions end the admiration of the convent of St. Clare and the Capuchin Church; That hard earned reputation that was built up over many years is destroyed by one man’s trasgressions. When society understood the tortures inflicted by the Prioress of St. Clare, they had a maddening reaction, and were resolved to destroy the holy convent. Any nuns, whether innocent or guilty, became subject to their fury. “The incensed populace, confounding the innocent with the guilty, had resolved to sacrifice all the nuns of that order to their rage, and not to leave one stone of the building upon another.” (Lewis, 302). A kind heart and mercy from the Prioress and Ambrosio would have prevented this unplanned attack, and many innocent lives would have been saved; Their obstinate and unyeilding hearts caused the convent of St. Clare to be reduced to ashes and bones, never to be restored to its original greatness and esteem.

The Monk’s arrest also caused an uproar in Madrid. Those whom he deemed his best supporters and fans, slandered him worse than any other citizen. He ruined the reputation of himself as well as the reverence of the Capuchin Church. “His partisans abandoned him: no one entertained a doubt of his guilt: and they who before had been the warmest in his praise, were now the most vociferous in his condemnation.” (Lewis, 347). The Monk’s involvement with the supernatural not only destroyed his life, but the lives of everyone in contact with him and as he suffered, the whole population of Madrid suffered with him.

The supernatural is defined as attributted to or thought to reveal some force above the laws of nature, and this was portrayed within Rime of the Ancient Mariner and The Monk. The Mariner and Ambrosio became subject to the laws above nature and brought down society because of its abnormality and their abhorred involvement. The Mariner broke the laws of god and nature by killing a representation of Christ, the albatross, and thusly forsaking the careful balance set up by god. The Monk abandoned his entire basis of existance and education for sorcery, in order to satisfy his ravenous passions; He destroyed the foundation of the religion of Madrid in the process, and rather than facing the consequences of his offenses, Ambrosio fled in fear of pain and established his eternal torment.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Romantic Period. Ed., M.H. Abrahms. New York: W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2000.

Mattew Gregory Lewis. The Monk. Peterborough: Broadview, 2003.