Mask of Anarchy

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A poem of protest by P. B. Shelley, published 1832, written in response to the ‘Peterloo Massacre’. It uses the popular ballad form with immense power and sometimes surreal effect. The ‘mask’ is a pageant, or masquerade, of British political leaders—Castlereagh, Eldon, Sidmouth—whom Shelley blames not only for the killing and wounding of some 500 people at a public demonstration for parliamentary reform, but also for the general conditions of harshness and oppression in England. The poem ends with a celebration of freedom, and Shelley's historic appeal for non‐violent mass political protest in a great assembly of working people: ‘Rise like lions after slumber | In unvanquishable number.’

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792—1822) poet

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