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The literary fortunes of the Gunpowder Plot

November 4, 2015

An excerpt from an OUPblog article published on Tuesday 3rd November, authored by Gordon Campbell, Fellow in Renaissance Studies at the University of Leicester, and an editorial board member for Oxford Scholarly Editions Online.

"The conspirators in what we now know as the Gunpowder Plot failed in their aspiration to blow up the House of Lords on the occasion of the state opening of parliament, in the hope of killing the King and a multitude of peers. Why do we continue to remember the plot? The bonfires no longer articulate anti-Roman Catholicism, though this attitude formally survived until 2013 in the prohibition against the monarch or the heir to the throne marrying a Catholic.

One way of tracking how the plot is remembered is through literature. I discovered, for example, a sermon preached on 5 November 1606 by Lancelot Andrewes, who appears to have been the first literary figure to embed the idea of a tunnel dug under parliament by the conspirators into his account. Such a tunnel is improbable, and is unsupported by any archaeological evidence, but good conspiracies benefit from villains digging a tunnel! And this one allowed writers to indulge in the metaphor of undermining the government."

Discover more: Read the rest of this article on the OUPblog


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