1. In what respects is Gilbert's "Yarn of the 'Nancy Bell' "reminiscent of Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"?

2. The poem, written in 1866, may be a response to such tales of cannibalism as that of the Franklin expedition. What details suggest a possible connection?

3. What is ironic about the initial narrator's remarking (before the old salt begins his yarn) that he would"eat [his] hand" (line 19)?

4. Why has Gilbert entitled the poem a "yarn" rather than a "ballad"?

5. What is ironic about the verse immediately preceding the six asterisks?

6. Explain the nature of the dilemma in which the second narrator is placed when only he and the cook are left. How does the narrator (who obviously survives to tell the tale) ingeniously resolve this dilemma?

7. In what sense, however, is the second narrator, the old sailor, "unreliable"?

8. How, despite his grim subject matter, does Gilbert render the poem amusing?

9. An undermining detail about the story is the drawing of the lots to determine who will die: explain the nature of this improbability.

10. What contribution do phonetic spellings such as "larf" make to the poem?


Victorian Web overview Theater & Popular Entertainment Gilbert OV

26 July 2004