Shelley Critical Appreciation Essay

851 words - 3 pages

Shelley abhors the ruling class, and seems to think that significant sociopolitical change is on the horizon. In “Ozymandias”, Shelley explains his cynicism with the power of the ruling class and doubts its great impact on humanity as a whole. Shelley uses king Ozymandias of Egypt to illustrate how “mighty” rulers are worthless to humanity. Their power, like that of Ozymandias, will not withstand the test of time. Ironically, even though the king was very powerful, now, everything he stood for has been destroyed. He thought he was an important and mighty man, but his kingdom has decayed and is a “colossal Wreck, boundless and bare” (11-12).The central theme of "Ozymandias" is the inevitable decline of all leaders, and of the empires they build, however mighty in their own time.The 'Younger Memnon' statue of Ramesses II in the British Museum thought to have inspired the poemOzymandias was another name for Ramesses the Great, Pharaoh of the nineteenth dynasty of ancient Egypt.[4] Ozymandias represents a transliteration into Greek of a part of Ramesses' throne name, User-maat-re Setep-en-re. The sonnet paraphrases the inscription on the base of the statue, given by Diodorus Siculus as "King of Kings am I, Osymandias. If anyone would know how great I am and where I lie, let him surpass one of my works."[5] Shelley's poem is often said to have been inspired by the arrival in London of a colossal statue of Ramesses II, acquired for the British Museum by the Italian adventurer Giovanni Belzoni in 1816.[6] Rodenbeck and Chaney, however,[7] point out that the poem was written and published before the statue arrived in Britain, and thus that Shelley could not have seen it. Its repute in Western Europe preceded its actual arrival in Britain (Napoleon had previously made an unsuccessful attempt to acquire it for France, for example), and thus it may have been its repute or news of its imminent arrival rather than seeing the statue itself which provided the inspiration.The 2008 edition of the travel guide Lonely Planet's guide to Egypt says that the poem was inspired by the fallen statue of Ramesses II at the Ramesseum, a memorial temple built by Ramesses at Thebes, near Luxor in Upper Egypt.[8] This statue, however, does not have "two vast and trunkless legs of stone", nor does it have a "shattered visage" with a "frown / And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command." (In fact, all statues of Egyptian kings have a uniform expression of serene benevolence.) Nor does the base of the statue at Thebes have any inscription, although Ramesses's cartouche is inscribed on the statue itself.Among the earlier senses of the verb "to mock" is "to...

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