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Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Teacher Guide by Kristy Littlehale

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category

Student Activities for Ozymandias Include:

Inspired by a statue of Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, unearthed by British archaeologists in the early 1800s, Percy Bysshe Shelley explores the theme of the transience of human power. What once was a symbol of a great and powerful leader, is now a shattered statue slated to sit in a museum.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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A Quick Synopsis of "Ozymandias" (Contains Spoilers)

Ozymandias is a sonnet written by British poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. While it is often used as an example of a Petrarchan sonnet, the rhyme scheme is not typical. Shelley was inspired to write "Ozymandias" shortly after the British Museum’s announcement that they would be acquiring and displaying a large portion of the head and torso of a statue of Egypt’s Pharaoh Ramses II, also known as "Ozymandias".

The start of the poem is from the perspective of the narrator, who recounts once meeting a traveler who had stumbled upon Ramses’ statue in the desert. There is nothing much left of the statue: the legs are without a trunk, or torso; the face of the statue lies half-sunken into the sand, its expression one of a “sneer of cold command.” The traveler tells the narrator that he could tell the sculptor once took great pride in this statue, and it is carefully and beautifully crafted.

On the pedestal of the statue, it reads, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” This declaration is a powerful one, a statue in the desert that surely once stood in front of a mighty empire, built by a powerful pharaoh. However, immediately after this inscription, the narrator states that, “Nothing beside remains.” The irony of what once was, and what exists now, which the narrator describes as “decay”, is not lost on the reader. The narrator ends the sonnet with the description of the sands that stretch far away, barren, into the distance. This once-great ruler established an empire that he thought people would admire for generations; however, as with all great symbols of power built by man, nothing quite lasts forever.


Essential Questions for "Ozymandias"

  1. What picture does the poem paint of the fates of vast and powerful empires?
  2. What are some of the ways that great leaders display their pride and power today?
  3. Why do people want to be remembered?

Ozymandias Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

TP-CASTT for "Ozymandias"


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Poetry is one of the most expressive forms of literature. It can evoke emotions, set a mood, tell a story, or create a deeply and universally understood feeling in its readers. This makes expounding its elements, and understanding its rich meaning, comparisons, and symbols, even more important.

The TP-CASTT method of poetry analysis is a great way to teach students to dissect a poem and understand its parts. It helps students to uncover the deeper meanings within poems while giving them the confidence to be self-educators. TP-CASTT Poetry Analysis is an order of operations similar to PEMDAS for math. It asks students to list items in sequential order and answer questions based on their reading of the poem.



TPCASTT Example for "Ozymandias"

T

TITLE

“Ozymandias” sounds exotic. It could be the name of a place, or a person from a long time ago.
P

PARAPHRASE

The speaker meets a traveler who has recently seen the great statue of the powerful pharaoh Ramses II, or Ozymandias. The traveler tells the speaker that the statue is in pieces in the sand in the middle of the desert. Ozymandias used to be a great and mighty king, but there is nothing left of his empire anymore.
C

CONNOTATION

The speaker uses words such as antique, vast, shattered, cold command, despair, nothing… remains, decay, and wreck to emphasize that this once-great King’s statue now lies broken in a wasteland. Ozymandias once thought he would be remembered for his works which were so great they would last forever, but now, there is nothing left.
A

ATTITUDE/TONE

The tone seems to be ironic. After describing this shattered visage which was once sculpted with such care by its creator, the inscription on the pedestal shows that it was once a symbol of great power. Unfortunately, that power did not last for Ozymandias.
S

SHIFTS

As is true of most sonnets, there is a shift. The shift is found when the speaker moves from describing the physical aspects of the statue, which shows that it is in pieces, to the significance of the statue which is found on the pedestal. This is no longer a piece of marble in the desert; it was the statue of a great king.
T

TITLE

The title is about the King, Ozymandias, and his great statue that lies in ruins in the middle of the desert.
T

THEME

The theme of the poem is that human power and greatness is transient, and while we all hope to leave our mark on the world in some way, nothing lasts forever-- not even great empires.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Perform a TPCASTT analysis of "Ozymandias". Remember that TPCASTT stands for Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Attitude/Tone, Shift, Title, Theme.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Choose any combination of scenes, characters, items, and text to represent each letter of TPCASTT.
  3. Write a few sentences describing the importance or meaning of the images.
  4. Finalize images, edit, and proofread your work.
  5. Save and submit storyboard to assignment.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Literary Elements in "Ozymandias"


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When teaching poetry, it is often helpful to refresh or introduce students with technical words. Terms like “metaphor", "alliteration", "personification", "imagery", "apostrophe", and "assonance" are a few important terms.

After you have read the poem, ask your students to do a scavenger hunt using the storyboard creator. Give them the list again and have them create a storyboard that depicts and explains the use of each literary element in the poem. They will have an absolute blast and gain mastery of the words.

Examples of Literary Elements Shelley uses in "Ozymandias"

DESCRIPTION EXAMPLE
Personification Giving human-like characteristics to non-human objects or abstract ideas “The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.”
Alliteration Repetition of consonant sounds at the beginnings of words in a sentence or line “And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command”
Assonance The repetition of a vowel sound “Half sunk, a shattered visage lies,”
Imagery The use of descriptive or figurative language to create vivid mental imagery that appeals to the senses “Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Apostrophe A direct address to an absent person, concept, or inanimate object “‘Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’”

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows five examples of literary elements in "Ozymandias".


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify use of literary elements in the text.
  3. Put the type of literary element in the title box.
  4. Give an example from the text in the description box.
  5. Illustrate the example using using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Connecting to the Theme of "Ozymandias"

Sometimes, it is difficult for students to connect with themes in poetry until they put them into a real-world context. Consider the following activity for students to storyboard with "Ozymandias".

Ozymandias’ statue once stood in the pinnacle of civilization and human progress, ancient Egypt. The statue was carved as a tribute to Ramses II, a powerful leader who probably thought that his civilization would always be the most powerful. Have students do research on significant man-made landmarks and structures in the world. Have them choose the one(s) they like best, and do some research on why those structures were built. Were they a tribute? A religious piece? A sacred burial place for the dead? A sign of power? A structure of military defense? Have them look for pictures of the structure through the search bar in the Storyboard Creator and put them into a storyboard with a description of the reason for its origin and any interesting facts about it.


The Buddhas of Bamiyan

  • The Buddhas of Bamiyan were two large statues of Buddha carved into the side of a cliff in Afghanistan. Their origins are thought to be in the early-mid 6th century.

  • One Buddha is smaller than the other. The larger Buddha was over 180 feet tall, and the smaller Buddha measured over 124 feet.

  • The Buddhas were carved into the cliff at this location because it was once a Buddhist hub of activity. Buddhist monks used this site as a place to study, meditate, and worship. The statues were erected as a tribute to the power of Buddha, and there were many caves which the monks lived in, carved into the cliffside.

  • There were many attempts to destroy the Buddhas over the centuries, and thankfully, most were unsuccessful. One Afghan king was successful in destroying the larger statue’s face.

  • In 2001, the Taliban successfully destroyed the statues by blowing them up. The Taliban viewed the statues as idolatry, and decided that they went against the tenets of their interpretation of Islam. Behind the statues, great caverns filled with beautiful carvings were discovered.

  • In 2011, despite the fact that the statues can apparently be repaired, UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) announced that it would not repair the Buddhas. They cite cost and lack of original materials for use in reconstruction in their decision. This great and powerful religious landmark now only exists in history books and pictures.

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