At around midnight between the 4th and 5th of November, one Guido Fawkes was discovered hiding beneath the Houses of Parliament in London, keeping company with a very large quantity of gunpowder (more than enough to reduce the buildings above to rubble). Fawkes was caught due to an anonymous tip to the police, and upon his arrest, the conspiracy for which he was the triggerman quickly disintergrated. Most of the other conspirators fled, but they were either shot down or captured by the authorities.
The Gunpowder Plot, as it became known, was an attempt by a group of pro-Catholic sympathisers to destroy a government that they felt was too Protestant, and install in its place a more Catholic regime in England. They were highly committed to this cuase (Fawkes, for example, would almost certainly have died in the explosions he set off), but ultimately, they failed.
But even today, English speaking peoples everywhere remember Guy Fawkes as the only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions.
Widely seen as the first modern novel, Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” (in full, “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha”) remains a classic even today. It is a deconstruction and an affectionate parody of the chivalric romances that had dominated fiction in Europe for several centuries prior to its publication. The plot of the book concerns a deluded man named Alonso Quijano, whose head has been addled by reading too many chivalric romances. Adopting the name Don Quixote, he sets out to perform what he considers appropriately knightly endeavours.
Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn’t go along with his delusions, and this conflict is the origin of most of the book’s famous comedy. Famously, Quixote attempts to battle windmills, believing them to be giants – from whence the phrase ’tilting at windmills’ originates. He is also the origin of the word quixotic. To say that Quixote – the character and the book – cast a long, long shadow over Western literature is to understate the case: this one book is more influential than all but the most important and well-known of Shakespeare’s plays, for example.