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Guy Fawkes Night: 'Remember, remember, the Fifth of November'

By Kara Santos Published Nov 05, 2020 12:05 am

Guy Fawkes Night, also called Guy Fawkes Day, Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night, is a British observance on Nov. 5, commemorating the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

Its history begins with the events of Nov. 5, 1605, when Guy Fawkes, a prominent member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords.

Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and months later the introduction of the Observance of the 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure.

The Guy Fawkes mask, a stylised depiction of Guy Fawkes, has long roots as part of celebrations, when his effigy was traditionally burned on a bonfire, commonly accompanied by fireworks.

In popular culture, the mask was popularized by the 2005 dystopian political action film V for Vendetta, written by the Wachowskis, and based on the 1988 DC/Vertigo Comics limited series of the same name by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.

Set in an alternative near-future in the United Kingdom, the film centers on V (Hugo Weaving), an anarchist who adopts the persona and mission of Guy Fawkes, in an attempt to ignite a revolution through elaborate terrorist acts. The film also starred Natalie Portman as Evey, a young working-class woman caught up in V's mission.

In a key scene, the masked vigilante utters the famous lines:

Remember, remember, the fifth of November

Gunpowder treason and plot

We see no reason

Why Gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot….”

Since the release of the film, the use of the "Guy Fawkes" mask has become widespread internationally especially among anti-establishment protest groups.

In an interview with the BBC, British graphic novel artist and illustrator David Lloyd, who created the original mask stated, "The Guy Fawkes mask has now become a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny – and I'm happy with people using it, it seems quite unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way."

While the film was released over 15 years ago, many themes still resonate with audiences and remain more relevant than ever today. The depiction of a dystopian society and fictional events such as the "St. Mary's Virus" pandemic ravaging Europe, the politically fragile climate, peaceful protests met with violent force, police brutality, and enforced curfews are terrifyingly similar to 2020.

Check out the trailer below to refresh your memory on the film.

V for Vendetta is currently streaming on Netflix.

(Images from Warner Bros. Pictures & DC/Vertigo)