Ozymandias Analysis Essay

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Analysis of “Ozymandias”
The poem “Ozymandias” is considered one of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s best sonnets. It was written in 1817 and is still recognized today as its meaning still holds true. “Ozymandias” illustrates the fall of power and mortality through a once powerful king. This is shown through the pride of the king, the tyranny that the king ruled by, and the transience of his ruling and empire.
The king Ozymandias has a great amount of pride for what he has accomplished during his time as ruler. He had a sculptor erect a massive statue of him, which shows how highly he thought of himself. The pedestal of the statue stated "My name is Ozymandias king of kings: / Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" (Shelley, 136, 10-11).…show more content…

With all the power that comes from being a king one can quickly turn into a tyrant. Shelley depicts Ozymandias as a tyrant through the lines: Stand in the desert… Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read. (136, 3-6)
The sculpture of Ozymandias is made in a way that shows his tyrannical rule. It mentions his frown, wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command. All three of those depictions are things you would associate with a king that is ruling tyrannically. The statue is another way for Ozymandias to remind his people of the power that he holds. When the people see the statue it reminds them of him and in a way is like he is always watching over them. “Ozymandias” also shows the theory of Marxism. The power in this poem lies with Ozymandias and he uses that power to control and command his empire. As the king he is able to do this because no one else has the amount of power that he has. In the reference to the expressions on the face of the statue the one line says, “Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,” (Shelley, 136, 7). This shows that even with Ozymandias long gone his persona of being a harsh and tyrannical leader still live on through this lifeless statue. It is also a metaphor for how his ideals still live on through other leaders. There have been many other tyrants throughout history that

Shelley's sonnet is a bit of a twist on the traditional form. It does have 14 lines and is mostly iambic pentameter, but the rhyme scheme is different, being ababacdcedefef which reflects an unorthodox approach to the subject.

It's not a Shakespearean sonnet, nor is it a Petrarchan - the poet made certain of its individuality by choosing not to introduce a 'turn' after the second quatrain. Instead there is a simple shift of emphasis, the narrator sharing the words on the pedestal that are in effect, the words of the fallen leader.

Is this Shelley yet again breaking with tradition, defying the establishment?


The occasional use of alliteration reinforces certain words, helping the reader to focus:

legs of stone/Stand (lines 2-3)

sneer of cold command, (line 5)

boundless and bare (line 13)

The lone and level sands stretch (line 14)

The full rhymes and slant rhymes of the short vowel a are also an important factor in the overall sound of this sonnet. Take a note of their prevalence:


What this does is produce a harsh almost cutting edge to some lines which is offset by the regular use of punctuation, causing the reader to pause. For example, in lines 3-5 :

Stand in the desert...Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

So whilst the regular rhythm persists, the pauses, punctuation and enjambment help vary the pace and bring interest for the reader and listener. The mysterious ending adds to the atmosphere - all that history, the works, the dreams of a people, the fall of a once great empire.

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