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Death is a leveller. Discuss the statement in reference to Ozymandias and Death the Leveller.

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Introduction

"Death is a leveller". Discuss the statement in reference to "Ozymandias" and "Death the Leveller". "Death is a leveller", this statement implies that death makes everyone equal or 'level'. In the poems, "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley and "Death the Leveller" by James Shirley, they each portray this in similar ways. Each refer to this statement by using the notion of a powerful figure, who would seem to be 'invincible', forgotten through time, hence forth, making them equal to people who would have achieved very little within their lifetime. In "Ozymandias", Percy Bysshe Shelley relates a description of a mysterious land laid to waste. The speaker recalls having met a traveller "from an antique land," who told him a story about the ruins of a statue in the desert of his native country. At the very beginning of the poem, Shelley creates a remote landscape, unknown by many therefore distancing the narration. The title "Ozymandias" refers to the great Egyptian King Rameses II. This unfamiliar name gives the impression to the reader that it will about someone anonymous though during his life, he would have been very influential on the world around him. "Half sunk, a shattered visage lies" denotes the face of the statue damaged and worn throughout time, metaphorically, like his power lost though time. ...read more.

Middle

Alliteration is used to create an effective rhythm within the last lines of the stanza. It creates a feeling of total certainty that this is how this statue, like Ozymandias' reputation, will stand until it is worn away to become another grain of sand. This poem was written in the age when Napoleon Bonaparte was at his height of power, but Shelley believed this would eventually been his fate. 'Death the Leveller' was written by James Shirley the time when King Charles was reined over England. In that time period, many people did not wish to have a king; therefore, King Charles was eventually beheaded. The purpose of the poem was a warning to the King, showing that he had no escape from death, even with his courage a huge army. Shirley begins "The glories of our blood and state are shadows, not substantial things" denotes that how no matter how important your blood is or how powerful you are in life, death will make you as meaningful as a shadow, forgotten and neglected. Shirley then states how there is "no armour against fate" meaning that death is something you cannot escape, regardless of who you are within life. Shirley also makes death human like by saying it lays its "icy hand on kings" "Sceptre and Crown Must tumble down" A sceptre is like a staff, which is held by a king and obviously a crown, which is a symbol of their high authority. ...read more.

Conclusion

as in the face of death, these achievements are worthless, levelling out those who reside on the street to those who rule over countries. "Upon Death's purple altar now" implies that death will place you where it wishes; in addition, the colour purple is related to royalty, which mocks his current status. "Your heads must come to the cold tomb" means that right there, right then, he is to die unavoidably at the cold hands of death. Shirley finishes, "Only the actions of the just smell sweet and blossom in their dust" denoting that if the King had perhaps stepped down, he would have lived longer and therefore, be remembered for longer. In each stanza, Shirley uses rhyming couplets e.g. "Early or late, they stoop to fate" which in literature, is recognized as the basic and decided truth. This associates back to death being a leveller as 'his' decision is final. In conclusion, "Ozymandias" and "Death the Leveller" each use death to illustrate that everyone, in time, no matter how mighty or great they may be, will eventually succumb to the sardonic natural process of death in their lives. Using powerful figures to support this view, they link how death and nature are corresponding and even those who are born great will surrender to it ultimately. This quality makes everyone and everything in life similar and making death a leveller. ...read more.

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