'The Masque of Anarchy'

A poem written by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) in 1819. In August of that year, a huge but peaceful crowd of 80,000 assembled in St Peter’s Fields in Manchester to listen to speakers who were demanding parliamentary reform. When the unprovoked cavalry charged the throng, many innocent people were killed or seriously injured. Increased state repression ensued. The event became known as the 'Peterloo Massacre’, and inspired Shelley’s response the following month. His poem was composed in broadsheet ballad form; because of its controversial content, it was published only posthumously in 1832.  

Manuscript of P B Shelley's 'The Masque of Anarchy'

Manuscript of P B Shelley's 'The Masque of Anarchy'

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Percy Bysshe Shelley
Romantic literature
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The Peterloo Massacre

Article by:
Ruth Mather
Power and politics, Romanticism

In August 1819 dozens of peaceful protestors were killed and hundreds injured at what became known as the Peterloo Massacre. Ruth Mather examines the origins, response and aftermath of this key early 19th century political event.

An introduction to 'The Masque of Anarchy'

Article by:
John Mullan

Professor John Mullan analyses how Shelley transformed his political passion, and a personal grudge, into poetry.

An introduction to ‘Ozymandias’

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Stephen Hebron looks at P B Shelley’s 'Ozymandias', showing how his use of form and vocabulary produce a poem that transcends its sources.

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