Skip to comments.Brits, Americans celebrate Guy Fawkes Day [Remember, remember the fifth of November]
Posted on 11/05/2012 1:57:08 PM PST by Alex Murphy
If there is a face of anarchy, its that of Guy Fawkes. His face is so notorious that it is commonly symbolized, ironically, in the form of an identity-concealing mask.
Fawkes was an English Catholic who is immortalized annually on Nov. 5, a date identified by his namesake. Guy Fawkes Day marks his plot in 1605 to eliminate the entire British Parliament in one fell swoop. He was popularized by the 2005 movie V for Vendetta, where V, the character based on Fawkes, always wore a smug, musketeer-style mustachioed mask that came to embody his revolutionary persona.
As the history goes, Fawkes and a group of four other conspirators planted a sizeable stash of gunpowder at least 20 barrels beneath the British Parliament building when government officials were present, including King James I, the Protestant king at the time. Fawkes plan was to detonate the gunpowder and eliminate the nations rulers, bringing the country into a new era of Catholicism.
Walter Arnstein, professor emeritus of history who specializes in 19th and 20th century-era Great Britain, said Fawkes was originally a Protestant but converted to Catholicism and became very passionate.
It was at that time (in Britain) the Protestant/Catholic element was a central story, Arnstein said.
What became known as the Gunpowder Plot did not succeed. Just hours before the explosion was set to take place, officials located the gunpowder and captured Fawkes and his cohorts.
He was later tried for treason, found guilty and executed brutally for his crimes.
Coming from such a dark history, why is this religious and political extremist still remembered? For the same reason that any nation remembers a disaster like this: so he can serve as an example of what happens when someone tries to go against the government so starkly.
Dan Chappell, sophomore in FAA, is an international student from Great Britain. He has taken part in many festivities surrounding Guy Fawkes Day also known as Bonfire Night throughout his life. He recited the common British nursery rhyme affiliated with Fawkes:
(Remember,) remember, the 5th of November. / Gunpowder, treason and plot. / I see no reason why gunpowder treason / should ever be forgot.
The rhyme goes on after these first lines, continuing to explain the story of Nov. 5.
In Britain, more people will be aware that this is really meant to be a nationalist holiday celebrating the unraveling of Fawkes plot, said Feisal Mohamed, English professor specializing in 17th Century British literature.
Even though the holiday is named after Fawkes, Guy Fawkes Day in Great Britain is all about dishonoring Fawkes and celebrating his failure.
On Bonfire Night ... you would build a bonfire and then have an effigy of Guy Fawkes, use old clothes, like a scarecrow, Chappell said. Then you would actually burn this figure on the bonfire, so its kind of rejecting Guy Fawkes.
There are fireworks and nationwide celebrations on Bonfire Night. Its a night of fun for families and children, comparable to the Fourth of July or Halloween in the United States.
And so it gradually certainly by the time of the 20th Century it largely ceased to be primarily a religious affair, Arnstein said. It became almost a kind of a childrens memory.
The details have become watered down since 1605, and Guy Fawkes Day has lost its historical element. Children are taught a tamer version in British elementary schools, and the Gunpowder Plot has become more of a lighthearted tale, Chappell said.
People got further and further away from the actual history, Mohamed said. People kind of forgot what it was really about and were able to sort of project these later values onto November 5th.
This is especially pertinent in the U.S. Instead of celebrating the downfall of Fawkes, Americans celebrate his attempt at challenging the powers in place, both Mohamed and Chappell said.
On this side of the Atlantic, were less attached to British government and celebrate a revolutionary moment when this country broke away from British government, Mohamed continued. Fawkes can be celebrated.
The American spirit has come to stand for independence and freedom, which some people could believe is symbolized by Fawkes rebellious 1605 plot.
The movie V for Vendetta is a theatrical, futuristic version of the Gunpowder Plot, with key parallels to the actual historic event.
The film stars Natalie Portman, with Hugo Weaving as V. The character V is portrayed as a freedom fighter, one who wanted revenge on those who wronged him.
He forms an alliance with Evey Hammond, Portmans character, to carry out his vengeance-filled scheme.
I think that Hollywood has definitely glorified Fawkes, who was not someone operating out of noble principles, Mohamed said. I think (the movies hype) has made Fawkes into more of a hero than any student of history would think.
The mask of Guy Fawkes is also often used by hacktivist group Anonymous, which has defaced multiple websites in honor of the holiday. On the morning of Nov. 4, the group ravished the NBC website, featuring the Nov. 5 poem, loud music and a dark, starry screen. The NBC site was restored by 6 p.m. Sunday. They used the same defacement on Daily Gaga, a Lady Gaga fan site.
As of today, Fawkes story has fluctuated significantly throughout the course of time. It went from a religious conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism in Great Britain to an English night of celebration to an American symbol of revolution. Because the Gunpowder Plot took place more than four centuries ago, details have been cast away, storytelling has taken over, and Fawkes means something different to everyone, depending on which side of the Atlantic they are on.
Whether the holiday is commemorated today with fireworks and sparklers or a mask and a cape, all of these themes have come to represent the rebellious extremist that was Guy Fawkes.
....I think that Hollywood has definitely glorified Fawkes, who was not someone operating out of noble principles, Mohamed said. I think (the movies hype) has made Fawkes into more of a hero than any student of history would think....
....As of today, Fawkes story has fluctuated significantly throughout the course of time. It went from a religious conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism in Great Britain to an English night of celebration to an American symbol of revolution. Because the Gunpowder Plot took place more than four centuries ago, details have been cast away, storytelling has taken over, and Fawkes means something different to everyone, depending on which side of the Atlantic they are on.
Most of the folks I know that celebrate the day at all just like the idea of burning somebody in effigy, cause it’s kind of cool. We don’t care about whether Fawkes was a hero or villain, just pick somebody and “burn” them. Of course most of the people in my group learned about it from the V for Vendetta graphic novel, where-in is NOT a freedom fighter, he’s a bloodthirsty anarchist fighting against a bloodthirsty fascist regime, there are no good guys.
I’m reposting my comment made about the Gunpowder Plot on your previous thread about matching the Plot and Shakespeare’s MacBeth. These are my thoughts about why it ended up much better for British Roman Catholicism that the Plot failed.
It is an interesting what if to think of what would have happened if this Gunpowder Plot had succeeded. In our history, James Is descendants married Roman Catholic (RC) queens and were reputed to be crypto-Catholic in their private lives. True, religion did cause the overthrow of his namesake grandson, James II in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 by James IIs protestant daughter, Mary and her husband William of Orange (Netherlands). However this coup detat was as much a revolt against another Charles I absolutist monarch sa James II now blatant RC faith.
Nonetheless, England still tolerated a large number of RC nobility as long as they kept it private, for example the Howard Family as the Dukedom of Norfolk. Add to that the fact is that as the Reformation/Counter-Reformation wars died down, Britain became much more tolerant so long as RC exercise remained private and uncontroversial.
Now think of a Kingdom where the Monarch and Parliament were decimated by religious partisans. How that would have affected Charles I who at age 5 would have had a very long regency period, never a good thing for a monarchy or for the persons involved. What would be CERTAIN is that the blow-back against RC and RC partisans would have been enormous, especially with the memories of the problems just confirming the protestant succession through the Scottish Stuart line. Charles would have been probably raised much more in the Puritan traditions which would have matched more closely to the Scottish Presbyterian traditions.
By projection, Britain would have gone through a much longer period of RC intolerance and that would have affected history in ways not immediately apparent. As an example, think about Maryland and Lord George Baltimore, a RC convert who persuaded Charles I to grant an official RC colony, Maryland, 1632, north of the already established Virginia Colony. Would this generous act have occurred following a successful Gunpowder Plot? Im inclined to doubt.
So my conclusion is that it was far better for the British Roman Catholics and their faith that the Gunpowder Plot was nipped before the fuse got to it.
As I protestant I do not do anything to even acknowledge this plotter against the rightful king.
If one wants to revolt against the king then he should have done it the way our founding fathers did. Assassination is a bad business
Every time I see one of those idiots wearing that mask, the vision of a baseball bat being swung with force appears in my brain.
I don’t know why. Can’t explain it. I wonder why there would be that kind of association?
Yeah, just think there would only be a tiny sprinkling of British Catholics instead of a small handful like today...the horror the horror.
Much the same as the commercial adoration of “Che,” a sociopathic mass murderer.
The mask of Guy Fawkes is also often used by hacktivist group Anonymous, which has defaced multiple websites in honor of the holiday. On the morning of Nov. 4, the group ravished the NBC website, featuring the Nov. 5 poem, loud music and a dark, starry screen.
I can't think of anyone more worthy!
I believe you can find that the Troubles of Ireland harken back to the actions of Fawkes, and the growth of the Roundheads and their Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell. Seems only the "landed gentry" among the English Catholics retained some of their station, most of the poorer, marginalised Catholics in Scotland and Ireland were severely oppressed.
Actually, the Catholic population in England is 10% and growing fast (more so than the Muslim population btw, which many FReepers insist are swamping and dominating us). Here in the North West of England, it is at 20% and I know more practicing Catholics than I do practicing Anglicans, even though I’m technically a baptized member of the latter church...