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The Difference Between "Ozymandias" by Percy Shelley and "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning

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The poems “Ozymandias” by Percy Shelley and “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning are very different. However, they do have something in common – both poems are representations of their power. “Ozymandias” represents power as poem shows that human life is insignificant compared to the passing of time, even for egotistical kings such as Ozymandias, time is very powerful. “My Last Duchess” represents power through the narrative technique, which makes it seem as if the Duke is speaking directly to an audience, powerful as it captures the reader.

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Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” is about a ruined statue of a powerful ruler who once controlled an ancient kingdom. Browning depicts that Ozymandias was a very harsh ruler – this is shown by the quote, “His sneer of cold command”, his “sneer” shows that Ozymandias somewhat abused his power because he was cruel leader; this leads the reader on to think that King Ozymandias was most likely a dictator in his ancient kingdom. “Cold command” is an example of harsh alliteration, the strong repetition of the letter ‘c’ at the start of both words once again gives a representation of power, “command” also represents the dictatorship of pharaohs kingdom and the use of the word “cold” may show that by being a dictator and abusing power this can reveal that the pharaoh may have been lonely. Shelley also uses alliteration when mentioning the “boundless and bare” desert, it emphasizes the emptiness of the desert, which has survived far longer than the statue which is now lifeless. “Bare” and Ozymandias has nothing left after he died because his statue has collapsed. Which may represent all of the influence he had has collapsed. The rhythm of iambic pentameter also represents a heartbeat perhaps ironic as his life has already ended at this point.

In contrast, “My Last Duchess” is about a duke of Ferrara who is also very powerful. We see this by the fact that he refers to his surname as “a nine-hundred-years-old name”. This shows that his family ancestry has been one of importance for many hundreds of years. This also suggests to the reader that his name would have been known throughout Italy, predominantly in Ferrara due to the fact that his surname is still significant nine hundred years later. The Duke seems to be extremely proud of his name to even know that his name has been one of power for all of these centuries.

Ozymandias is written in Iambic Pentameter and contains enjambment. This Iambic Pentameter accompanied with the enjambment is the closest thing to narrating a story in poetry. By almost narrating a story, the poem gives us an insight in to the Egyptian king’s life due to the fact that there are no stanzas; it’s just an account of the pharaoh’s life. Enjambment is presented when Shelley writes, “nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck”, this shows that after Ozymandias’ rule and all of the achievements he made, time was even more powerful than the king and everything is gone and decaying. It is a form of irony because even a powerful king cannot control the damaging effects of time.

Browning’s poem, “My Last Duchess” is also written in iambic pentameter. This shows that the poem is also almost a story about the Duke’s life and problems with his Duchess. The poem is a dramatic monologue, the speaker is clearly distinct from the poet and this gives the reader the impression that a poet hasn’t written this, rather this is a direct account transcript of the duke himself speaking. This creates the sense of an audience being present, even though there is not one. The fact that the reader can feel that the duke is speaking directly to them makes what he says seem even more powerful, this clever use of a dramatic monologue by Browning evidently creates a sense of power.

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“Ozymandias” is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem metered in iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme is unusual for a sonnet of this era; it does not fit a conventional Petrarchan pattern, this suggests that things are out of place. Ozymandias’ rule is no longer and time has distorted all of his achievements and power he used to have. This gives evidence that the power the king once had has all been changed, due to the power of time which overshadowed the Ozymandias’ power.

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The difference between “Ozymandias” by Percy Shelley and “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning. (2019, February 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 9, 2023, from
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