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Explore Context in 'Ozymandias'

In this worksheet, students will learn to explore the context in 'Ozymandias' and understand a little bit about Shelley's background and the nature of the poem.

'Explore Context in 'Ozymandias'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA, Eduqas

Curriculum topic:   Poetry, Poetry 1789 to the Present Day

Curriculum subtopic:   Power and Conflict: 'Ozymandias', 'Ozymandias'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Always wanted to practise your understanding of context in 'Ozymandias'?

 

Thought bubble

 

Well, you've come to the right place! 

 

This activity is quite simple. We're going to be looking at the background of the poem, the themes that Shelley uses and the context behind 'Ozymandias'. Shelley, a poet during the era of Romanticism, wrote 'Ozymandias' after archaeologists discovered fragments of a funeral statue of King Ramses II, a pharaoh of Egypt in the 13th century. During Shelley's life, he was exposed to philosophies and teachings which influenced many of his opinions- Shelley was an atheist and believed strongly in liberty and equality. These beliefs are reflected in the poem 'Ozymandias'.

 

As you do this activity, jot down some important facts that you notice along the way. It'll be really helpful for your exam and your general knowledge.

 

 

 

 

Just a reminder: context is the background, environment and setting of a poem. 

 

The title of the poem is 'Ozymandias', which is the Greek translation of an Egyptian King.

 

Fittingly, the setting of the poem is Egypt.

 

 

Tick the one quote which proves the poem is set in Egypt.

 

"Ozymandias, King of Kings"

"And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command"

"I met a traveller from an antique land"

Percy Shelley was an atheist (he didn't believe in God). However, a lot of his poems explored the idea of a creator-figure. 

 

Which one, out of the options below, illustrates Shelley's representation of a creator? Pick one number from the options below.

 

 

1. "...King of Kings"

2. "...a sneer of cold command"

3. "...its sculptor well those passions read"

What can we infer about the overall meaning of the poem?

 

Tick the three answers that you think are the most logical.

Shelley views Ozymandias as prideful and cruel

Ozymandias represents Shelley's beliefs regarding equality, and therefore shows the negative effects of a hierarchy system

Ozymandias reflects Shelley's fears of God

Ozymandias portrays Shelley's negative opinions on power, arrogance and dictatorship

Shelley views Ozymandias as a positive and fair ruler

Why is it important for us to know that Shelley was a Romantic poet?

 

 

Hint: Romantic poetry (capital R) was a movement during 1800-1850. It had nothing to do with our idea of romance (lower-case r). Romantic poetry was when poets would focus on writing about the powerful effects of the natural world!

 

Pick one number out of the options below:

 

1. Because the poem is about Ozymandias falling in love

2. Because Shelley writes a lot about the power of nature.

3. Because Shelley uses a lot of adjectives in the poem.

In his youth, Shelley was the oldest male child. Due to his position and society at that time, he was admired by his sisters, parents and servants.

 

Later on in his life, when he joined school, he was badly bullied.

 

Tick one box from below which best explains how Shelley's childhood might have inspired the poem 'Ozymandias'.

 

Shelley, having been a victim of bullying, used the cruel and unfair Ozymandias as a way of showcasing cruelty

Shelley may have loved the power his family gave to him, and so wrote a poem which reflects the positive effects of having power

Ozymandias is a representation of Shelley

Shelley was a political man and hated the British monarchy.

 

 

Which quote best represents Shelley's hatred of power (especially concentrated power, where one man ruled).

 

Hint: think about this in terms of the consequence of power.

 

"I am Ozymandias, King of Kings"

"Nothing beside remains"

"I met a traveller from an antique land"

Match each contextual idea with a quote from the poem.

Column A

Column B

Power of nature
"The lone and level sands stretch far away"
Hatred of power
"I met a traveller from an antique land"
Fascination with 'exotic' lands
"Nothing beside remains"

Once more! Match each contextual idea with a quote from the poem.

 

Column A

Column B

Religion
"Tell that its sculptor well its passions read"
Past experience
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings"

Tick one theme that's not in the poem.

 

Nature

Timidity

Religion

What idea, from the options below, seems to be the most important one in the poem?

 

That religion is a questionable idea that can be explored

That your past affects the way you think and believe in the present

That nature will always overpower humanity

That concentrated power in one person eventually leads to damage and destruction

  • Question 1

The title of the poem is 'Ozymandias', which is the Greek translation of an Egyptian King.

 

Fittingly, the setting of the poem is Egypt.

 

 

Tick the one quote which proves the poem is set in Egypt.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"I met a traveller from an antique land"
EDDIE SAYS
Shelley uses the adjective "antique", which refers to the 19th century fascination with "old" and "exotic" countries. Given that the title of the poem is already the Greek translation, we can assume that the setting is Egypt.
  • Question 2

Percy Shelley was an atheist (he didn't believe in God). However, a lot of his poems explored the idea of a creator-figure. 

 

Which one, out of the options below, illustrates Shelley's representation of a creator? Pick one number from the options below.

 

 

1. "...King of Kings"

2. "...a sneer of cold command"

3. "...its sculptor well those passions read"

CORRECT ANSWER
3
EDDIE SAYS
This question may seem a bit odd, as Shelley is a strong atheist, but it doesn't stop him from exploring the idea of a God-like figure. The sculptor is the God-like figure in the poem. However, in the end, Ozymandias' statue is left secluded and damaged! What do you think this expresses about Shelley's ideas on God?
  • Question 3

What can we infer about the overall meaning of the poem?

 

Tick the three answers that you think are the most logical.

CORRECT ANSWER
Shelley views Ozymandias as prideful and cruel
Ozymandias represents Shelley's beliefs regarding equality, and therefore shows the negative effects of a hierarchy system
Ozymandias portrays Shelley's negative opinions on power, arrogance and dictatorship
EDDIE SAYS
Shelley's meanings behind the poem can be interpreted in many different ways. You could argue the poem explores religious ideas through the representation of the sculptor, Shelley warns of the dangers of arrogance. Or perhaps Shelley is simply supporting socialist ideas. That is the belief in a fair, equal society. The one thing to take from the poem that is not up for debate is that Ozymandias is presented as the bad guy.
  • Question 4

Why is it important for us to know that Shelley was a Romantic poet?

 

 

Hint: Romantic poetry (capital R) was a movement during 1800-1850. It had nothing to do with our idea of romance (lower-case r). Romantic poetry was when poets would focus on writing about the powerful effects of the natural world!

 

Pick one number out of the options below:

 

1. Because the poem is about Ozymandias falling in love

2. Because Shelley writes a lot about the power of nature.

3. Because Shelley uses a lot of adjectives in the poem.

CORRECT ANSWER
2
EDDIE SAYS
The fact that Shelley incorporates the theme of nature, specifically the power of nature, shows he is a Romantic (capital R) poet. Shelley emphasised the intellect of nature, giving it authority and presenting it as a much more powerful than humans!
  • Question 5

In his youth, Shelley was the oldest male child. Due to his position and society at that time, he was admired by his sisters, parents and servants.

 

Later on in his life, when he joined school, he was badly bullied.

 

Tick one box from below which best explains how Shelley's childhood might have inspired the poem 'Ozymandias'.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Shelley, having been a victim of bullying, used the cruel and unfair Ozymandias as a way of showcasing cruelty
EDDIE SAYS
We can assume that Shelley may have experienced the negative effects of cruelty at the hands of the children who bullied him- in his adult life, he may have used Ozymandias as a way of showcasing the cruelty he experienced as a child! Also, Shelley may have related the power that he once held (being the oldest child) to the power Ozymandias holds. We can see that he understands the responsibility that is required when in a position of power. What do you think this says about Shelley as a person? Was he progressive for the time?
  • Question 6

Shelley was a political man and hated the British monarchy.

 

 

Which quote best represents Shelley's hatred of power (especially concentrated power, where one man ruled).

 

Hint: think about this in terms of the consequence of power.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Nothing beside remains"
EDDIE SAYS
The quote "nothing beside remains" is really powerful in visually depicting the consequences of concentrated power. Ozymandias is left isolated. Shelley really hated the British monarchy- the poem 'Ozymandias' reflects this!
  • Question 7

Match each contextual idea with a quote from the poem.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Power of nature
"The lone and level sands stretch...
Hatred of power
"Nothing beside remains"
Fascination with 'exotic' lands
"I met a traveller from an antiqu...
EDDIE SAYS
Try and think about the whole of the poem. Basing our analysis on context, what do you think has inspired Shelley the most to write the poem, and what do you think he tried to represent the most? Has it got to do with being a romantic poet, or maybe Shelley's hatred of power? Remember, justification with quotes to support your point made is key!
  • Question 8

Once more! Match each contextual idea with a quote from the poem.

 

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Religion
"Tell that its sculptor well its ...
Past experience
"My name is Ozymandias, king of k...
EDDIE SAYS
This idea of linking the poet's intended meaning to a quote really enhances our understanding of contextual themes. Knowing about contextual ideas is important. It sets up the framework in which the poem sits, helping the reader to understand what exactly the writer was attempting to depict.
  • Question 9

Tick one theme that's not in the poem.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Timidity
EDDIE SAYS
Although Shelley's poem has a few themes that are hard to relate to (how many of us can actually relate to Ozymandias...hands up!), timidity definitely is not one of them- Ozymandias is the opposite of timid.
  • Question 10

What idea, from the options below, seems to be the most important one in the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
That concentrated power in one person eventually leads to damage and destruction
EDDIE SAYS
All the ideas above are interesting and can be explored. So jot them down and see if you can get some evidence and evaluation to back them up! The idea of the damaging effects of power is a recurring theme in the poem. It ties together the ideas of Shelley's past, as well as his political viewpoint. You might disagree, though, and that's totally okay. If you do, jot down your own ideas about what you believe Shelley is implying- implicitly or explicitly- and get some quotes down to back up why you think this is.
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