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Du er her: Skole > Interpretation of the song "Viva la Vida"

Interpretation of the song "Viva la Vida"

Tolkning av Coldplays låt "Viva la Vida".

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This song was released by Coldplay June 11th 2008, in the album with the same name. The song was written by vocalist Chris Martin and found its way to the top of the charts all over the world.


«Viva la Vida» is divided into 8 stanzas in the following pattern: three stanzas, chorus, two stanzas, two choruses. Each stanza has four lines, while the choruses each have 8. The rhyming is structured in the well known pattern of aabb and aabbccdd.


Our first impression of the theme was that it might concern one of the great world leaders of history, who had lost his power and glory.

«I used to rule the world

Seas would rise when I gave the word

Now in the morning I sleep alone

Sweep the streets I used to own.»

The last verse of this stanza uses contrasts to highlight the rise and fall of the leader in question.


The third stanza also provides vital information about the realization of this person's reign.

«One minute I held the key

Next the walls were closed on me

And I discovered that my castles stand

Upon pillars of salt, and pillars of sand.»

This leads us to think that this person once had the power to decide the fate of his subjects, but that he is now deprived of his power. We also believe that the second verse of this stanza is referring to actual imprisonment, whether in jail or in a convent.

We find the last proposition the most probable, because of the last two lines' reference to Jesus' speech about building ones house on sand. Maybe this person has, after entering a convent,realized that he had built his life on the wrong values.


The chorus uses various expressions from the christian world, such as «Jerusalem bells», «My sword and shield» (from the passage in Paul's letter to the Ephesians about wearing God's armour) and «missionaries». The chorus also mentions that «there was never an honest word». This might be a way of saying that his leadership was based on corruption and abuse of power.


This is repeated in the first two verses of the fourth stanza:

«It was the wicked and wild wind

Blew down the doors to let me in.

Shattered windows and the sound of drums

People could not believe what I'd become»

This might suggest that this person came to power through violent mutiny. The last verse might also insinuate that he was known and liked among the people, but suddenly turned into a brutal dictator.


The next stanza speaks of revolutionaries waiting «for his head on a silver plate», which might suggest that this leader was quite despised among his people, and that, obviously, there were revolutionaries wanting to get rid of him.

It also says:

«Just a puppet on a lonely string

Who would ever want to be king?»

This leads us to believe that this person has been manipulated by someone, perhaps his counsellors. He sees himself as an innocent instrument for someone else's politics, and in retrospect he wishes he had never wore the crown.


The three choruses are different from one another in some small, but important details. The sixth verse in the last two choruses say, respectively:

«I know St. Peter won't call my name»

and «I know St. Peter will call my name».

This is a symbol of the person's reconsiliation with God, and certainty of salvation after his death. This verse is followed by these two, respectively:

«Never an honest word, and that was when I ruled the world»

and «Never and honest word, but that was when I ruled the world».

In the last chorus the person has distanced himself from his past, and has become a better human being. He believes that he has been forgiven by God.


Theme: It is impossible for a human being to handle a god-like amount of power, and this will eventually lead him to damnation, unless he changes his ways.


We believe that the person in question here might be a well-known leader, such as Napoleon, Hitler, or one of the former popes. It might also just be a fictative person, to demonstrate a point.



I used to rule the world

Seas would rise when I gave the word

Now in the morning I sleep alone

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