How does Shelley present ideas about power in "Ozymandias"?
Shelley himself was politically radical. A self-avowed atheist, who opposed war and monarchy, he was the author of many radical pamphlets. His poem "Ozymandias" expresses in dramatic terms his ideas about power and authority.
The first thing to note is that for Shelley, any forms of power, restraint, or convention were usually inherently bad and he looked forward to the abolition of Christianity, monarchy, nationalism, and many other traditional forms of social structure of his period.
His poem "Ozymandias" is based on Ramses II, one of the greatest and most powerful Egyptian pharaohs. In the poem, he portrays this power as both tyrannical and ephemeral. The negative side of power is emphasized by the description of the statue's face as possessed of a:
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Shelley emphasizes the ephemeral nature of power with the irony of the toppled and broken statue fallen from a pedestal proclaiming the greatness of the subject of its portrait. The pharaoh is seen as so far from eternally powerful that even the statue's existence is only reported as a traveler's tale rather than encountered directly by the narrator.
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