Faculty Advisor

Despres, Denise

Area of Study

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 2011


Most people today probably recognize the term “Gunpowder Plot”. They may know it was some sort of assassination plot against the King of England; they might also have heard that there are bonfires in England every November the 5th; they might also have seen the numerous movies, poems, and plays dealing with the Plot. However, many do not know how the Plot was perceived in the years immediately following the failed 1605 attempt to blow up Parliament building with King James I inside. How was the Plot perceived by the English people compared to how we perceive it today? Did the propaganda put out by the Crown—poems, plays, and brochures—work effectively to completely unify national consciousness against the Catholic religion? How did creative works of the time—plays, poems and carvings—reflect an anxiety with the idea of one unified “nation”?

This paper delves into the extraordinarily complicated nature of English national identity following the most infamous assassination plot in English history. Through the use of Arizona State University’s extensive library of Early Modern texts, this paper attempts to shed light on how three masters of the creative arts— Claus Nicholaes Visscher, William Shakespeare, and John Donne—reflected in their various pictures, plays, and sermons their anxiety with the ability of the Crown to create one nation united against Catholicism.


University of Puget Sound