Special Feature – Revolution #1: Bonfire Night and the Gunpowder Plot (Two Perspectives)

Hannah

At the very core of civilisations throughout history, there is a grim paradox that might generally be observed: namely, that within civilisation resides the morbid yearning for its antithesis. Nowhere is this more apparent than through cultural preoccupations with violent spectacle and in particular the phenomenon of public executions. Historically, such public forms of capital punishment not only provided the state with an opportunity to potently assert its authority over dissenting persons but also, by virtue of the general public being able to voluntarily attend these executions, it delivered a strikingly grotesque form of entertainment. On 31st January 1606, one such spectacle was partly frustrated. Having witnessed the seven remaining fellow conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot being hanged, drawn and quartered before his own ascent to the scaffold, Guy Fawkes was able to avoid the same fate through a final act of defiance, by jumping from the scaffold and breaking his neck. Undeterred by this slight setback to the proceedings, the executioner quartered his body and his remains were disseminated throughout the kingdom to serve as a powerful deterrent for other potential traitors. Continue reading

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