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Ozymandias

Writing Ideas

1. Think of some of the monuments in your country. Why where they built? What do they symbolize? Now imagine those same monuments 500 years in the future. Write a poem that, like “Ozymandias,” describes the effects of time on both the monuments themselves, and the values they were meant to represent.

2. “Ozymandias” considers the relationship between an artist and his creation. Try writing a poem that offers your own view of the artistic process. Pick a piece of art—a painting, a sculpture, a song—and imagine the artist’s act of creation. How does your artist feel about his or her creation? Like Shelley, try to describe a piece of art while at the same time capturing the feelings and emotions of the artist.

3. Continue the story of Shelley’s “traveller.” What other sights might he or she have seen in the “antique land”?

Discussion Questions

1. Although “Ozymandias” begins with an “I,” it is actually an account from another speaker entirely. What effect does a framing device like this have on your reading of the poem? Why might Shelley have used reported speech to describe the monument instead of relying on the his own direct address to the reader?

2. What is the relationship between Ozymandias and the sculptor who immortalizes him? What specific words does Shelley use to portray their bond? Based on “Ozymandias,” what do you think Shelley thought about the relationship between artist and patron? Between artist and creation? If Shelley is commenting on poetry, do you think he aligns himself with Ozymandias or the sculptor?

3. Shelley uses adjectives like “shattered” and “cold” to help create the poem’s ironic tone. How does he create irony through other techniques, like juxtaposition?

Teaching Tips

1. Read the poem aloud to students and have them visualize the events of the story that is told. Read it again several times, prompting students to fill in the details of the images, as if they were watching a rerun of a television show in their heads. Afterward, ask, if you were to make a television episode out of this poem who would be the star? What other actors would you need to film the story accurately? How many flashbacks would be included? What might we think of mighty Ozymandias by the end of the show?

2. Have students work in small groups using the poem as the basis of a comic strip. Have them depict the events described in the poem in chronological order, using key pieces of text along with their illustrations. As students consider a title for their comic strip, have them consider why might we “despair” when we look on these works? Afterward, have them share their comic strips with the larger group.