Guy Fawkes Night

Guy Fawkes Mask

Guy Fawkes Mask

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

This the first part of an English folk verse about the Gunpowder Plot.

Westminster palace in London. Picture source: Pixabay / PublicDomainPictures

Westminster palace in London. Picture source: Pixabay / PublicDomainPictures

The Gunpowder Plot was a Catholic conspiracy. On the night of the 4. November 1605 a group of conspirators wanted to blow up the Palace of Westminster and thereby kill King James I and many members of parliament. However, an anonymous letter warned them, and when they searched the cellar beneath the House of Lords they found Guy Fawkes there, ready to fire some explosives.

In the ensuing chase, some of the conspirators were killed, others were captured and tortured, then executed, among them Guy Fawkes.

Bonfire. Picture source: Pixabay / Hans

Bonfire. Picture source: Pixabay / Hans

So why is a despicable act like this celebrated in the UK?
First of all, it isn’t a proper public holiday. People still go to work and the shops are open. The celebration is about the fact that they didn’t succeed! So, every year, on the evening of the 5. November, the British set off fireworks and light bonfires to honour the fact that the plans of the group of conspirators were foiled. In some places, they also burn an effigy called ‘the guy’. Guy Fawkes was not the only conspirator, but the most famous, as he was the one they caught with the explosives. That is why Guy Fawkes is the face of the 5. November.

Vocabulary (in order of appearance)

  • plot: (here) a secret plan made by a group of people
  • conspiracy: a secret plot involving several people to do something which is either illegal or wrong
  • to blow up something: to explode
  • thereby: used to introduce the result of the action or situation mentioned
  • cellar: a room underneath a building
  • House of Lords: One of the two chambers of the UK Parliament. Also called the upper chamber.
  • explosives: bombs
  • ensuing: to happen after or as a result of another event
  • chase: (here) the activity of hunting someone
  • captured: (here) taken prisoners
  • despicable: really mean and horrible
  • public holiday: a day on which most shops, schools etc. are closed in order to celebrate an event.
  • succeed: to get the result you want
  • set off: (here) to make a bomb explode
  • bonfire: a large fire made outdoors
  • honour: (here) to give special praise to something
  • foiled: to prevent something from succeeding
  • effigy: (here) a model of a person that makes them look ugly
  • the face: (here) the symbol

Sources:
Books:
Collins World Encyclopedia, (1995 [2003]), Glasgow, HarperCollinsPublishers
Websites:
Remember, remember! (accessed on 04.11.13)
Time and date website (accessed on 05.11.13)

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