Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot

Guy Fawkes was born in 1570, and his life came to a sudden and unpleasant end in 1606. As a Roman Catholic, Guy was in the wrong place at the wrong time, because life was tough for Catholics in Protestant England. He managed to get out of the country in his early twenties by joining the Spanish army and fighting the French, but he soon returned to his native England and thought he’d use his military skills to protest against the way Catholics were being treated.

The problem was, Guy didn’t organize a demonstration or a petition to the monarch. He decided to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Obviously, Guy had spent too much time abroad, because he should have known that blowing up public buildings is not British. He was caught, tortured – poor guy – and hanged.

Guy (Guido) Fawkes and some of his fellow conspiratorsGuy (Guido) Fawkes and some of his fellow conspirators

Guy and the Gunpowder Plot are remembered to this day. In the days leading up to November 5 – the day he was arrested in 1605 –­ children make life-sized rag dolls called “guys” and go around asking for money for fireworks. Then, on the night of the fifth, there are firework displays and bonfires all over the country. What happens to the guys? Guess.


Find expressions in the text which mean the same as these:

  • nasty
  • difficult
  • escape from
  • when he was about 22 or 23
  • came back
  • king or queen
  • in other countries
  • captured

Activities for the links below

1) Read the account of the Gunpowder Plot and then answer these questions:

  1. Why did King James I disappoint a lot of people when he became king?
  2. What did the 13 young men hope to achieve by blowing up Parliament?
  3. Why did some of the plotters have second thoughts?
  4. How did the authorities hear of the plot?
  5. Some people think the plot would have failed even if the authorities had not known about it. Why?
  6. Why were bonfires lit on the night Guy Fawkes was arrested?
  7. What is an effigy?
  8. Some people in Britain have an ironical attitude to Bonfire Night. What do these people ask themselves?
2) The newsreel was made in 1958, when the State Opening of Parliament was televised for the first time. The English is difficult in parts, so concentrate on the visual presentation. Make a note of the ways in which the ceremony is full of tradition. Key words:
  • symbols
  • clothing
  • actions
The Queen’s speech is not too difficult. Try to make a list of the main points she makes.



Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night

State Opening of Parliament, 1958 (video)

Cappelen Damm

Sist oppdatert: 21.08.2009

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