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Gunpowder Plot


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Guy Fawkes (1570—1606) conspirator

James I (1566—1625) king of Scotland, England, and Ireland

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James I (1394—1437) king of Scots

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A Catholic scheme to murder James I of England and his Parliament at the state opening on 5 November 1605, to be followed by a national Catholic uprising and seizure of power. The plotters, recusants led by Robert Catesby, saw violent action as the only way to gain toleration for English Catholics. They were subsequently disowned by the majority of their fellow religionists, who had little sympathy for the conspiratorial tradition established by Roberto Ridolfi, Francis Throckmorton, and Anthony Babington. It has been suggested that Robert Cecil manufactured the plot, in order to discredit the Catholic cause. Cecil learned of the plot through Lord Mounteagle, a Catholic peer. On the eve of the opening, Guy Fawkes was discovered in the cellar under the House of Lords on guard over barrels of gunpowder. The other plotters were overcome in the Midlands after brief resistance. Fawkes and seven others, including Sir Everard Digby were tried before Coke and executed in January 1606. Immediately afterwards, the penal laws against Catholics were stiffened, and an Oath of Allegiance imposed, but to the chagrin of many Puritans and Anglicans, enforcement of the new legislation soon became sporadic. Bonfires, fireworks, and the burning of ‘guys’ still mark 5 November in Britain.

Subjects: history — Shakespeare studies and criticism.


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