Luís de Camões Biography


(History of the World: The Renaissance)
0111204890-Camoes.jpg Luís de Camões (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Article abstract: Camões is the author of Os Lusíadas (1572; The Lusiads, 1655), the national epic of Portugal. Celebrating the voyage of Vasco da Gama, the poem recites the heroic history of the Portuguese nation.

Early Life

Luís de Camões (sometimes written Camoëns) was born in 1524, the year Vasco da Gama died. He was probably born in Lisbon, although by 1527 his family was living with Luís’ grandparents in Coimbra; most likely they fled from Lisbon to escape the plague, which reached the capital in that year.

Luís’ father was Simão Vas de Camões, a gentleman of no great power or wealth. Little is known of Anna de Macedo or Sá, Luís’ mother, beyond her name. When his father returned to Lisbon to take a position in the king’s warehouse, Luís remained in Coimbra with his mother in the home of her family, who were influential people there.

As Luís grew into manhood, Coimbra was undergoing its own development into the educational center of Portugal. Under the guidance of John III, a great university was permanently established. In or near 1539, Luis entered the university and must have read Vergil, Ovid, Lucan, and Cicero in the original Latin. He learned to speak Spanish fluently and was also exposed to Italian, Greek, geography, history, music, and many other subjects. During this period, he developed many friendships with young aristocrats, from whom he learned courtly tastes and manners. He also suffered his first taste of love, leading to some of his earliest, most tragic lyrics. After the conclusion of his studies, he left Coimbra for Lisbon, never to return.

Life’s Work

When Camões traveled to Lisbon to make his fortune, in or near 1543, he began a life of adventure and accomplishment as exciting as any legendary hero’s. He started quietly enough: Camões took a position as a tutor to the young son of a count. During these years, he learned all he could of his country’s history and culture. Camões was considered charming and attractive. Surviving portraits from this time show a handsome man with reddish-gold hair and blue eyes. In 1544, in church, he saw a young girl, Catarina de Ataíde, and fell immediately and passionately in love with her. For the rest of his life, Camões would consider Catarina the great spiritual love of his life; many of his most beautiful lyrics are dedicated to her.

While still in Lisbon, Camões also wrote three well-received comedies: Auto del-Rei Seleuco, performed in 1542, Enfatriões, performed in 1540, and Filodemo, performed in 1555. As he became more widely known as a writer, Camões was drawn deeper into the inner circles of the court, where he found many who admired his talents and charms, and many who despised his smugness and sharp tongue. Never one to feign modesty, he dedicated impassioned poetry to a series of lovers, in spite of his devotion to Catarina. Finally, his brashness led to his disgrace at court, though the actual sins committed are uncertain. Because of the scandal, he enlisted, under duress, in the army in 1547, served two years in northern Africa, and lost the use of his right eye in a battle at Ceuta in Morocco.

Camões returned to Lisbon no wiser than he had left; his wild living soon earned for him the nickname Trincafortes, or Swashbuckler. His absence had done nothing to restore his favor with the court, but he found himself equally capable of carousing with a lower class of companion. For the next two years, the poet earned a meager living as a ghostwriter of poetry and did all he could to enhance his reputation as a scalawag. On June 16, 1552, the intoxicated poet was involved in a street fight with a member of the royal staff, whom he stabbed. Camões was promptly arrested and sent to prison, where he languished for eight months.

When the stabbed official recovered, Camões’ friends obtained the poet’s release, but under two conditions: He was to pay a large fine and to leave immediately on an expedition to India. On March 26, 1553, he set sail on the São Bento, playing out the dangerous existence of the warrior-adventurer described in his epic. The voyage to India took six months, and the seafaring life was not an easy one. Boredom, hunger, scurvy, cold, seasickness, and storms—Camões and his companions had suffered it all before the ship rounded the Cape of Good Hope.

In September, 1553, the ship reached the Indian city of Goa, the Portuguese seat of power and wealth. During his residence there, Camões observed the local people and their exotic costumes, manners, and traditions, and began writing The Lusiads. He took part in several expeditions up the Malabar Coast, along...

(The entire section is 1950 words.)

Luís de Camões Biography

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Although he has had many biographers, little is known for certain of the adventuresome life of Luís de Camões, who represented so well in his life and works the Renaissance man and the Portuguese conquistador. The son of Simão Vas de Camões and Ana de Macedo or Sá, Camões was possibly related, through his paternal grandmother, to Vasco da Gama, as well as to other Portuguese notables dating as far back as 1370. Camões was a gentleman, then, although always of scant financial resources. It is clear, too, that he possessed a vast erudition. Because of the quantity and quality of Camões’s learning, it is likely that he studied at Coimbra University and therefore that he was born in Coimbra, as he probably would have been too poor to move there from Lisbon.

With some reputation as well as noble birth, Camões went to Lisbon between 1542 and 1545, to frequent the court and enjoy the greater activity of the capital. His enjoyment was short-lived, unfortunately, for in 1546 or 1547 he was banished to Ribatejo because of his passion for a lady of the court whose parents did not approve. It is known that during the years from 1547 to 1549, Camões was in Ceuta, Morocco, winning his spurs as a proper young nobleman but losing an eye, probably in combat with the Moors. In 1549, he was back in Lisbon, where he led a Bohemian existence until 1553, when, in a brawl, he injured his adversary so seriously that he was jailed.

Camões was released...

(The entire section is 543 words.)

Luís de Camões Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Luís de Camões (kuh-MOYNSH) is the preeminent poet of the Portuguese language, occupying a place in that language analogous to William Shakespeare in English or Dante in Italian in both the magnitude of his achievement and his influence upon Portuguese literature. Camões’s epic of discovery and conquest Os Lusíadas (1572; The Lusiads, 1655) is the work for which he is most renowned, but his lyric poetry and plays have also commanded attention.

Luís Vaz de Camões, the son of Simão Vaz de Camões and Ana de Sá, was born in Lisbon, Portugal, around 1524. His family was well off but did not inhabit the upper reaches of the aristocracy. Camões’s family was originally Galician in origin and had lived for some generations in the mountainous northern Portuguese town of Chaves. There are unsubstantiated rumors that some of his ancestors may have been converted Jews, but it is difficult to determine the validity of this claim.

His overseas travels aside, the details of Camões’s life are hazy, and beyond a few known facts what is generally thought about Camões’s biography is largely a product of scholarly conjecture. It is thought that Camões attended the newly relocated University of Coimbra, where his uncle Bento was the first chancellor. At Coimbra, Camões wrote Enfatriões (pr. 1540), a comic play in which the Greek gods assume human form. This play foreshadowed his juxtaposition of classical deities with contemporary characters in The Lusiads.

Camões arrived in Lisbon in the mid-1540’s. He presented himself to King John III and wrote Auto del-Rei Seleuco (pr. 1542), a historical play based on domestic drama in the household of the Hellenistic monarchs of present-day Syria. On April 11, 1542, Camões first saw Caterina de Ataide in church, and that day changed his life forever. Caterina is believed to be the great love of his life and the object of his passionate love sonnets, where her name is encrypted as “Natercia.” She returned his feelings, but Camões’s relatively low status at court and a certain reputation for wildness of character did not allow Caterina to reciprocate openly the poet’s ardor. His love inspired him to write sonnets that circulated privately, although they were printed posthumously in 1595...

(The entire section is 948 words.)

Luís de Camões Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

When the Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso in his song “Lingua” says, “I like to feel my tongue touch the tongue of Luís de Camões,” he is not only laying claim to an intimate contact with Portuguese literary tradition but also identifying himself with Camões as a bard and an artistic personality. In the twenty-first century, Camões is not merely a Portuguese national poet; he is a poet of the global Lusophone world, which includes Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and East Timor. The highest literary award for a writer in Portuguese is the Premio Luís de Camões, testifying to the poet’s founding and indispensable role in worldwide Portuguese literary culture.

(The entire section is 118 words.)

Luís de Camões Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Born in 1524, Luís Vaz de Camões (kuh-MOYNSH)—his name is also sometimes written Camoëns—has the distinction of having two cities, Lisbon and Coimbra, claim him as a native son. Modern scholarship has been unable to determine with certainty which city is correct in its claim, but Lisbon presents a somewhat better case. Camões apparently was educated at the University of Coimbra, a flourishing university in the sixteenth century, thanks to the patronage of King Joao III of Portugal. In the middle 1540’s Camões left the university for Lisbon. A tradition no longer believed correct held that he went to Lisbon as a tutor; another tradition no longer believed was that he followed a beautiful woman of the, Luís...

(The entire section is 626 words.)