In the poem Osymandias Shelly conveys the underlying theme of hubris through alliteration, quotation and other language effects. In the beginning of the poem, when speaking of the expression found on a broken statue Shelly quotes the sneer as having ‘cold command’. The use of alliteration draws our attention to this line, putting emphasis on ‘cold command’. In this way we are shown the type of person the King was: arrogant and self righteous in the command of his people. This alliteration brings our attention to who the man was, captured in the statue and through this we begin to understand his hubris nature.
Next, Shelly quotes the inscription found on the pedestal where the statue once stood erect. Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! Because of this quotation we are able to see directly what type of Man Osymand was through his own language. His suffocating arrogance is made clear as he says ‘look on my works’ – he clearly believed himself to be very powerful and important, a ‘king of kings’. He believed his ‘works’ to still be visible and able to alarm even after he was gone ( a prospect he might have thought himself too great for) However, We are shown how undeserved his boasts are when Shelly again uses alliteration to describe how baren the surrounding land is “boundless and bare, The lone and level ”
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert… near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.