More properly known as Ariel’s song from The Tempest, ‘Full fathom five thy father lies’ is about Ferdinand’s father, who is believed to have been the victim of a shipwreck and lie at the bottom of the ocean in Shakespeare’s play. We won’t say anything further about this here as we don’t want to offer any spoilers for those who haven’t read or seen the play, but wanted to share this song here because it is so well-known and yet not necessarily always carefully read. For instance, although it’s often known as ‘Full fathom five thy father lies’, the song actually begins quite differently…
Full Fathom Five
Come unto these yellow sands,
And then take hands:
Curtsied when you have, and kiss’d
The wild waves whist,
Foot it featly here and there;
And, sweet sprites, the burthen bear.
The watch-dogs bark.
Hark, hark! I hear
The strain of strutting chanticleer
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.
If you enjoyed ‘Full Fathom Five’, you might also enjoy our pick of the best speeches and soliloquies from Shakespeare’s plays.