Why might Percy Bysshe Shelly have capitalized the words King of Kings, Works, Mighty, and Wreck in his poem "Ozymandias"?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his poem "Ozymandias," Shelley uses capitalization to point out one main thing, and that is that egotism and pride have short shelf lives; they don't last very long, and no matter how grand or powerful you were in your lifetime, eventually, everyone forgets and your power wanes.  If you take note of the words you listed above, and how they are capitalized, Shelley is emphasizing how Ozymandias thought himself quite grand and royal at one point.  He was not just a king, he was a King of Kings!  He did not just accomplish many works in his lifeteime, he accomplished Works of great significance and importance.  He challenges not only the mighty to worship him, but the Mighty; he is greater even than the mightiest of the Mighty.  Adding capitalization to these words is a way to show how the ruler had grandiose assumptions about himself.  He capitalizes his own titles, giving himself supreme importance.  One has to assume that he instructed the inscription to be placed on the sculpture, so his selective capitalization reveals his own high opinion of himself.

Then, Shelley throws in the curve ball when he capitalizes Wreck.  All of the greatness, the Mightiness, the Kingliness of this man, is now a Wreck.  Not just a tiny wreck, not just a minor wreck, but a capital Wreck.  Just as the ruler considered himself mighty in life, so is his demise, the Wreck that is now the ruins of his domain, and the nothingness that remains of his kingdom.  I hope that those thoughts help; good luck!