Please explain the theme of "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley using literary devices and techniques.

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sarahc418 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Ozymandias is a complex poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley that focuses on the nature of power. 

Consider the character Ozymandias who was a self-assured powerful man. He had a statue erected of himself given a stern expression that states "Look on me works, ye mighty, and despair" yet behind him is not a grand city ornate with treasure. Rather, it is a barren desert. This stark contrast makes the situation ironic. No one would feel  This once great man has been reduced to a broken statue and all that is remembered of him is his self-importance. The story teller or traveller here notes that the expression on the king's face indicates someone who was ruthless, unforgiving and mocking. The diction that the author uses "decay" "wreck" "boundless" and "bare" indicate the negativity associated with this king.

The rhyme scheme here is ABABACDCEFEGEG, and it is an Italian sonnet which means the resolution to the piece is in the last two lines. The resolution in this piece is that even those with celebrity will die and leave behind their  

The speaker in this poem is a traveller talking to the persona or narrator of the poem. The structure of the poem indicates that this king is being talked about, he is from a strange land and no one knows of Ozymandias except to discuss what remains. We do not know the identity of either the persona or traveller. The pair at the end seem to be contemplating their own ends and what will be remembered of them.

The theme of the poem therefore is that power is quick to end will not provide immortality to those in power. 



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