In America, Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire Night isn't even celebrated. Most people only know this rhyme from the 2006 movie V for Vendetta. But in England it is a very real holiday, that, according to James Sharpe, a professor at the University of York, England, is getting ousted by Halloween. It's still a family event, where people get together with friends and there are fireworks, but it isn't as popular as it once was. I interviewed Sharpe for my most recent article about Guy Fawkes and the implications of the Guy Fawkes mask being worn by Occupy protesters and the hacker group Anonymous.
A few things that didn't make it into my article:
- Guy Fawkes Day was almost an American holiday. It was celebrated in the colonies, and very popular in Boston, but they called it Pope Day. You see, Guy Fawkes was a Catholic, the plot was to blow up Parliament because the Catholics were being severely oppressed in England. Blowing up Parliament was supposed to send them a message, but they were caught. During different points after this England was even more against Catholics than normal and would burn an effigy of the Pope on Bonfire Night instead of one of Fawkes. In America, they burned the Pope, hence Pope Day. George Washington was the one to stop this because he really needed the Catholics to help his cause.
- The Protestants thought the discovery of the plot was divine intervention and started having a special service every Nov. 5, that's what really cemented Guy Fawkes Day as a national holiday.
- Fawkes was tortured intensely after he was captured with the stock pile of gunpowder. He finally cracked and gave up the names of his co-conspiritores.
- Fawkes wasn't the central character, a man by the last name of Catesby led the activist group Fawkes became a part of. He, and a few others, were killed attempting to lead a revolt and the others involved were captured.
- The ones captured were sentenced to be hanged but not until they died. Then they were to be cut up (quartered) and displayed in prominent places as warnings to others. This was the penalty for treason.
I enjoy knowing the true story of Fawkes. But I do happen to enjoy the movie. There are such wonderful, empowering quotes. And although Fawkes and V are for violence in order to promote their agendas, the idea is that they thought they had no other choice. Violence in this way was better than no change at all.
Today those that wear the mask sometimes don't understand this fully. The story is about change which the modern movements want, but they are also trying to be peaceful. In this way the two don't fit. I hope that those that adopted the mask will do their research and understand the man they are representing. As the English say he was, "the only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions."
My favorite quotes from V for Vendetta:
"An inch. It is small and it is fragile and it is the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it or give it away. We must NEVER let them take it from us. I hope that whoever you are, you escape this place. I hope that the worlds turns, and that things get better. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that, even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you, I love you. With all my heart, I love you."
"I, like God, do not play with dice and do not believe in coincidence. "
" My father was a writer. You would've liked him. He used to say that artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up."
"You wear a mask for so long you forget who you are beneath it."
...I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.