In Percy Shelley's poem "Ozymandias," how many speakers do you hear? Summarize what each one says. 

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shake99 | Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Although Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias” is a short poem of only fourteen lines (a sonnet), there are actually three speakers involved.

The first speaker is the narrator’s voice. He gives us these ten words:

I met a traveler from an antique land,

Who said –

He is introducing the man that he met who will tell the rest of the little story.

The second speaker is the traveler who describes the huge statue of Ozymandias that he encountered in the desert. The statue was a pharaoh’s attempt to give himself a sort of immortality by creating a monument to himself that he probably thought would last for ages (which in fact it did). However, by the time the traveler found it, it had been reduced to an almost comical ruin of “trunkless legs of stone.”

During the description he recites what is written on the pedestal:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Technically, since these are the words of Ozymandias, he is himself the third speaker. His proud words, in light of the destruction of his statue, have an ironic ring. No matter how much you wish to attain immortality you will break down in the end. In this way the statue is like the human body and its fate is the same.


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