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"Ariel's Song" is a verse passage in Scene ii of Act I of William Shakespeare's The Tempest. It consists of two stanzas to be delivered by the spirit Ariel, in the hearing of Ferdinand. In performance it is sometimes sung and sometimes spoken. There is an extant musical setting of the second stanza by Shakespeare's contemporary Robert Johnson, which may have been used in the original production.

"Full Fathom Five"Edit

"Full Fathom Five" is the first line of the second stanza of "Ariel's song",[1] better known than the first stanza, and often presented alone. It implicitly addresses Ferdinand, who with his father has just gone through a shipwreck in which the father supposedly drowned.

It is the origin of the identically worded catchphrase, which means "at a depth of five fathoms [of water]", and thus, in most evocations, drowned and lost as the father is. Prior to modern diving technology, an object lost in five fathoms of water would be considered irretrievable.

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them — Ding-dong, bell.

This stanza also provided the source of the contemporary English usage of "sea change". Modern usage of the phrase is seldom specific to the sea or drowning, but generally refers to any change that is holistic and seems "beyond recognition" in degree: a metamorphosis.

The lines of Ariel's Song do not indicate whether the "sea change" was caused by the application of Prospero's magical powers, or whether it was solely the result of a natural metamorphosis of the body as it rested in the environment of the deep sea.

Musical settingsEdit


  • Jackson Pollock's "Full Fathom Five" (1947) is one of his seminal abstractionist works, taking its title from the line.
  • On the gravestone of Percy Bysshe Shelley in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome the lines “Nothing of him that doth fade, / But doth suffer a sea-change / Into something rich and strange.” are engraved. His schooner, on which he sailed the day he drowned, was called ‘Ariel’.
  • T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land includes the lines "I remember / Those are pearls that were his eyes".
  • "Full Fathom Five" is the title of the first (excluding the pilot) episode of Hawaii Five-O. In it the villains quote the stanza in full, but with minor variations to suit the plot.
  • Stephen King's Duma Key includes the lines "Full fathom five thy father lies ... Those are pearls that were his eyes"
  • Laurie Anderson's 1984 album Mister Heartbreak includes the track Blue Lagoon which contains the second stanza starting "Full fathom five thy father lies ..." but replaces the end line "Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell: Ding-dong. Hark! now I hear them — Ding-dong, bell." with "And I alone am left to tell the tale. Call me Ishmael."
  • The 1998-1999 Australian television show SeaChange is named after a phrase from the second stanza, as are two of the episodes, 'Full Fathom Five' and 'Something Rich and Strange'. Other references include the name of the main character's daughter, Miranda, as well as the frequent freak weather events that occur in the fictional town the show is set in.
  • In 'A Brief History of Montmaray', the first book in the trilogy 'The Montmaray Journals', by Michelle Cooper, on page 119, the protagonist, Sophia quotes the second stanza of Ariel's Song as a tribute to one of the characters during his funeral.
  • Barbara Kingsolver's 1999 novel The Poisonwood Bible includes the lines "Full fathom five thy father lies...Into something rich and strange."
  • Robert Hayden's poem "Middle Passage" alludes to this passage with the lines "Deep in the festering hole thy father lies, / of his bones New England pews are made / those are altar lights that were his eyes." References
  • It is quoted in "Cibola Burn, book 4 of the Expanse", by James S. A. Corey
  • Fathom Five National Marine Park is a National Marine Conservation Area in the Georgian Bay part of Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada.
  • In her poem "Full Fathom Five" Sylvia Plath alludes to her difficult relationship with her father and his incomprehensible nature.
  • In Zadie Smith's novel On Beauty, Kiki Belsey believes that the lines are originally by Plath.