Full Fathom Five Thy Father Lies: William Shakespeare - Summary and Critical Analysis

The poem Full Fathom Five Thy Father Lies occurs in Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, Act I, Scene 2. The spirit Ariel sings this song to Ferdinand, Prince of Naples, whom mistakenly thinks his father is drowned.

William Shakespeare

Ariel is telling Ferdinand that your father lies full thirty feet below the surface of the sea. His bones have been changed into a piece of coral. His eyes have been transformed into pearls.

Every part of his body that was supposed to decay has been changed into something rich and strange, but something belonging to the sea or connected with it. The sea nymphs who live in the sea are ringing his death bell every hour. Death is quite meaningful in this poem. No part of the dead body has decayed. They have been changed into something valuable. Coral are made of the bones, and eyes are changed into pearls. In this poem “Ding-dong” is the example of onomatopoeia. It imitates the sound of the bell and makes the readers feel that he is listening to the bell.

There lies an alliteration; the repetition of an initial first sound in two or more words of a line in this poem. In the first line of the poem “full fathom five thy father lies” the sound ‘f’ has been repeated four times. It reminds us of the flow of the sea. Similarly, “suffer a sea change”, “Hark! Now I hear them” are other examples of alliteration. Assonance; the repetition of the vowel sounds in stressed syllables; “five…. lies”, “nymphs…. ring” are the examples of assonance in this poem. All these rhetorical devices have enhanced the musical quality of the song. In line eight “Ding-dong” imitates the sound of the bell. It is usually the sound of the bell which is run slowly for the death of Ferdinand’s father. The nasal song ‘ng’ produces lingering, vibrant effects and the harsh sound ‘d’ reminds us of ‘death’.

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