“Remember Remember the 5th of November” is a common phrase in Britain. But Remember Remember the 5th of November is also a familiar refrain to comic and movie fans in America. To them, it is the symbolic phrase of a famed, radical comic turned into a movie a few years back. Yet that story had its main vengeful character/terrorist getting motivation from a real-life failed terror plot. Despite the fear of terror plots these days, people in America and Britain remember the Nov. 5 on Guy Fawkes Day 2010.
Every Nov. 5, memories of Guy Fawkes are recalled, although he became infamous over 400 years ago. In 1605, Guy Fawkes came close to assassinating King James I and the entire British government by blowing up Parliament right underneath it. Yet although the “Gunpowder Treason” failed, it took on a life of its own.
The famous rhyme reads” “Remember Remember the 5th of November/Gunpowder treason and plot. We see no reason/Why Gunpowder treason/Should ever be forgot.” Today, we have no trouble remembering attacks on our homeland, but we are more mournful about it.
In Britain, Guy Fawkes Day is more of an excuse to celebrate today, as England has made it into a holiday. Fireworks shows and bonfires are held every night on Nov. 5 as citizens find joy in the memory of a terrorist plot. But since the scheme failed, and Parliament and the King still stood, people are less uneasy about it.
In fact, when people remember remember the 5th of November, they have other things on their mind than Guy Fawkes Day. Decades ago, Alan Moore took inspiration from Fawkes and created V for Vendetta,about a masked, wronged hero/terrorist who succeeded where Fawkes failed. In that story, a terrorist plot against toppling a corrupt, fascistic government was celebrated as heroic.
Just over 400 years after the initial Gunpowder Treason was foiled, the movie adaptation of V for Vendetta was released. In that case, it was seen as a swipe at the Bush administration and the modern day War on Terror. The lessons and messages associated with Guy Fawkes Day have clearly lived on in different forms for over four centuries.
Of course, although Fawkes is the main reason many remember the 5th of November, he was actually a minor player in a larger plot. Roman Catholic conspirators were trying to kill the supposedly anti-Catholic King, but Fawkes was the most notable one caught. His subsequent public execution near Parliament helped make him the symbol of the Gunpowder Treason.
Today, Guy Fawkes Day lives on as a famous rhyme, a catchphrase for a comic and a movie, and as an excuse to set off fireworks. Although many remember remember the 5th of November, it is for several different reasons than first imagined.
Encyclopedia Britannica- “Guy Fawkes Day, or Please to Remember the Fifth of November”
Washington Post- “Remember, remember the 5th of November: Two reasons to celebrate”