4. Think about Shelley’s use of the sonnet form in “England in 1819” and “Ozymandias.” How does he shape the form to his own purposes? How does his use of the sonnet form break from the established traditions of the early 1800s?
5. Shelley was a political radical who never shied away from expressing his opinions about oppression and injustice—he was expelled from Oxford in 1811 for applying his radicalism to religion and arguing for the necessity of atheism. What do we learn about Shelley’s ideal vision of the human condition, as based on his political poems? With particular attention to “Ode to the West Wind,” how might a sense of his social hopes emerge from even a non-political poem?
6. In some ways Shelley is a creature of contradictions: he was an atheist who wrote hymns, a scandalous and controversial figure who argued for ethical behavior, an educated aristocrat who argued for the liberation of humankind, and a sensuous Romantic poet whose fondest hope was that his poems would exert a moral influence over the human imagination. How can one resolve these contradictions? (Are they even resolvable?) How do they manifest themselves in his poetry?
7. Shelley lived a fascinating and turbulent life among fascinating and turbulent people, from Lord Byron, the most famous, controversial, and popular poet of the era, to his wife Mary, the author of Frankenstein. How does a knowledge of Shelley’s biography (and early death) affect your appreciation of his poetry? Or does it affect it at all? Is it necessary to know about Shelley’s life and times in order to fully understand the poetry?