What is the moral of the poem "Ozymandias," by Percy Bysshe Shelly?

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Michael Foster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ozymandias is the Greek name for the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, who reigned from 1279-1213 BCE. Shelley quotes Ozymandias as saying, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings. / Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” This is said in pride, warning anyone from thinking they could destroy him. Yet there are only ruins about the broken statue. His “works” have been obliterated, either by time or by an enemy. He is not invincible as he believed. The real warning is that all the “Mighty” should look on his works and take warning that, no matter how powerful they are, eventually they will lie in the dust, just as Ozymandias is. Their works will be destroyed. The warning is against hubris, the belief that one is not held accountable or subject to the laws of man, the laws of nature, or the laws of the gods.