Guy Fawkes tried to overthrow the British government and suffered a brutal death (he was drawn and quartered) in 1606. Today, however, he is at least as well known for the mask his face inspired—adopted by activists and dissidents around the world.
Photograph by Enrique Dans. This image has been released into the public domain.

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  • On November 5, 1605, Catholic revolutionary Guy Fawkes was arrested while trying to bomb the Houses of Parliament in London, England. Guy Fawkes Day celebrates the failure of this “Gunpowder Plot” to overthrow the government of King James I.
    Two hundred years later, folk rhymes about Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot described the events.
    Remember, remember!
    The fifth of November, 
    The gunpowder, treason, and plot
    I know of no reason 
    Why the Gunpowder treason 
    Should ever be forgot! 
    Guy Fawkes and his companions 
    Did the scheme contrive
    To blow the King and Parliament 
    All up alive. 
    Threescore barrels, laid below, 
    To prove old England's overthrow. 
    But, by God's providence, him they catch, 
    With a dark lantern, lighting a match! 
    A stick and a stake 
    For King James's sake! 
    If you won't give me one, 
    I'll take two, 
    The better for me, 
    And the worse for you. 
    A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope
    A penn'orth of cheese to choke him, 
    A pint of beer to wash it down, 
    And a jolly good fire to burn him. 
    Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring! 
    Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King! 
    Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!
    Although Guy Fawkes Day began as passionately anti-Catholic, today it is celebrated as a civic holiday. Fireworks and parties are common, as are bonfires where effigies of “the Guy” are burned. The reputation of Guy Fawkes himself has also been somewhat restored. Stylized representations of his face have become popular symbols of dissent around the world, most famously as masks worn by members of the hacktivist group Anonymous.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    arrest Verb

    to take into legal custody.

    bomb Noun

    explosive device, usually a projectile.

    bonfire Noun

    large outdoor fire.

    Catholic Adjective

    having to do with the Christian denomination with the Pope as its leader.

    celebrate Verb

    to observe or mark an important event with public and private ceremonies or festivities.

    civic Adjective

    having to do with citizenship or public service.

    contrive Verb

    to plan or scheme.

    dissent Verb

    to disagree with the majority opinion.

    effigy Noun

    sculptural representation of a disliked public figure.

    failure Noun

    lack of success.

    folk Noun

    style of music or art based on peasant or traditional culture.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    gunpowder Noun

    mixture of chemicals (potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulfur), used in weapons and fireworks, that explodes when ignited.

    hactivist Noun person who gains unauthorized access to a computer system in order to pursue a political or social agenda.
    parliament Noun

    legislature, usually a democratic government's decision-making body.

    passionate Adjective

    enthusiastic and emotional.

    plot Noun

    secret plan or scheme.

    pope Noun

    leader of the Catholic Church.

    providence Noun

    divine care and guidance.

    representation Noun

    symbol of something.

    reputation Noun

    estimation or value in which a person or thing is held.

    restore Verb

    to renew or bring back to an earlier position or state of health.

    revolution Noun

    overthrow or total change of government.

    scheme Noun

    structure or diagram of the way information is studied, documented, and understood.

    score Noun

    20 years.

    stake Noun

    pointed stick.

    stylize Verb

    to depict in a formal and nonrealistic style.

    symbol Noun

    something used to represent something else.

    treason Noun

    crime of planning to overthrow the government.