Full Fathom Five Thy Father Lies

Writer: William Shakespeare


The poem “Full Fathom Five Thy Father Lies” is a song sung by the Spirit Ariel in Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”. The Spirit sings this song to Ferdinand, the Prince of Naples, who mistakenly thinks that his father is drowned.

The speaker of this poem is Ariel who is a very powerful spirit of wind who flies lightly and invisibly playing music and singing songs. Here he sings the song about the death of Ferdinand’s father. According to him, Ferdinand’s father lies thirty feet below the surface of the sea. Ferdinand is very worried about the death of his father. Giving him sympathy Ariel says that his father has got quite meaningful death. His body is not decayed. Every part of his body has been changed into something beautiful, valuable and strange. His eyes are transformed into pearls and bones are’ changed into coral. The sea nymphs welcome his death by ringing the death bell “Ding-dong” every hour.

In this poem, the spirit Ariel has presented a very artful and melodious description of the death of Ferdinand’s father. The prince of Naples is worried thinking that his father is drowned. He is very sad about the meaningless death of his father. However, Ariel gives him sympathy by making death meaningful through his powerful and magical description. He says that nothing of the dead body has decayed or rotten wastefully. Everything of the dead body is changed into meaningful and precious objects at the bottom of the sea. Ariel finally requests Ferdinand to listen to the death-bell rung by the sea nymphs to welcome his father’s beautiful and meaningful death.

Important Questions and Answers:

1. Define the poetic devices used in the poem with examples.
Ans: The following are the poetic devices used in this poem.
a) Alliteration: It is the repetition of the initial sound of the word many times in a sentence. Example: Full Fathom Five thy Father lies. Here, the ‘F’ sound is repeated four times in the sentence.
b) Onomatopoeia: It is a way of expressing an object by imitating its sound instead of naming the object. Example: Ding-dong-bell Mew-cat
c) Assonance: It’s the process of making a vowel sound long and nasal to create a special effect and to maintain the poetic matter. Example: d-i-ng, do-ng

Question for Practice :

  1. Write a summary of the poem in one paragraph.
  2. Is death meaningful in this poem?

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