What kind of person is Ozymandias as he is depicted in Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem of the same name?

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We learn something about Ozymandias from line three of the poem. These lines provide a description of the individual whose image has been sculpted in stone, which now lies broken in the sand.

Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

The words in bold inform us that the sculpture expresses a frown which suggests a serious expression; 'wrinkled lip' informs of a haughty expression, possessed by one who regards others with contempt. This is further supported and accentuated by the word 'sneer', which tells us that the person so depicted had disdain for those whom he commanded. The fact that his command is described as 'cold' suggests that he was heartless and cruel. Our perception is therefore of a cruel, hard, ruthless taskmaster who led without any love for his subjects. We can therefore rightly assume that he must have been either a dictator or tyrant.

The speaker tells us that the sculptor 'well those passions read,' which is an indication that the skilled artist was not remiss in the manner in which he portrayed his subject in this now decayed work. The line "The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed" further informs us that Ozymandias saw his subjects as buffoons and treated them as if they were idiots. He relished abusing his subjects and he fed his overblown ego by treating them with utter disregard and making fools of them.

Further insight is provided into Ozymandias' unpleasant superciliousness in the lines:

And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'

So vain and egotistical was he that he expressed his greatness on the pedestal of his statue, stating that he was greater than any ruler. Even the mightiest of the mighty could not challenge his glory for he was so all-powerful and great that all any other ruler could do was to become disparaged when they witnessed his magnitude and magnificence.

It is therefore ironic that all that has remained of Ozymandias' so-called prodigious power is a broken statue, enveloped by the sands of the desert.

 Nothing beside remains

Ozymandias has been defeated by death and time. The lonely, open and vast desert has become his final resting place, leaving a poor testament to his once, as he believed, incomparable might.

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mbjohnse | Student

Ozymandias is the Greek name for Alexander the Great. This works well with the language of the poem. The speaker mentions hearing from a traveler that once read from a pedestal beside a crumbling old statue. The pedestal says the following:

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'

The irony, of course, is that there is nothing to fear. The king's legacy is entirely faded now. His statue has crumbled. Based on this, we get the sense that Ozymandias was an arrogant king who tried to achieve immortality through fame and conquest. In the end, only the words describing the king survived. Perhaps this suggests that violence and conquest cannot immortalize a man.